India emerges as world''s largest arms importer, yet again

NEW DELHI: India has yet again emerged as the world’s largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all such international imports, while Russia, despite losing monopoly over the Indian defence market, continues to hold a dominant position as the largest supplier for New Delhi.

India emerges as world''s largest arms importer, yet again

File photo of the C-17 Globemaster.

pardeepdhull@gmail.com

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 16

India has yet again emerged as the world’s largest buyer of weapons and military equipment, accounting for some 15 per cent of all such international imports, while Russia, despite losing monopoly over the Indian defence market, continues to hold a dominant position as the largest supplier for New Delhi.

Saudi Arabia, China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan, are the next four biggest global importers.

These trends have emerged from a report released on Monday by the Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The assessment was done for a five-year period (2010-2014).

Titled ‘Trends in international arms transfers’, it says India’s share in global imports has increased by 140 per cent over the previous five-year bloc, 2005–2009, indicating that New Delhi’s attempts to be self-reliant were not enough as more and more sophisticated planes, warships and radars are procured from outside

“India’s imports were three times larger than those of either of its regional rivals China and Pakistan. This contrasts with 2005–2009 when India’s imports were 23 per cent below China’s and just over double those of Pakistan,” The SIPRI report said

In the period 2010–14, which is the basis of the latest report, Russia supplied 70 per cent of India’s arms imports, the USA 12 per cent and Israel 7 per cent. Acquisitions from the US are a break with the recent past. During the period studied by SIPRI, India procured fighter jets and Mi-17-V5 helicopters from Russia; specialised transport planes, the C-130-J Super Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster from the US; UAV’s and radars from Israel.

The previous report that studied the period 2009-2013 had said Russia supplied 75 per cent of the equipment to India, while US and Israel had 7 per cent and 6 per cent sales. This means Russia share of 70 per cent is a drop from earlier year, while the US and Israel have grown.

However, in a sign of an omnipresent threat, India’s neighbour China is helping Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma in ramping up military prowess. China is now the third largest exporter of weapons ahead of traditional manufacturers Germany, France and UK. Its biggest benefactors are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma — all having a shared boundary with India and could potentially cause trouble for New Delhi. The three countries accounted for 68 per cent of Beijing’s exports.

New Delhi sees China’s exports to countries around India as a part of its long-term strategy of having a ‘string of pearls’ — a kind of military toe-hold in countries around India. 

Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 per cent between 2005–2009 and during the latest five-year block 2010-14. Its share of global arms exports increased from 3 to 5 per cent, the report siad. The five biggest exporters in 2009-13 were the US, Russia, China, Germany and France. The US and Russia remained by far the largest exporters, accounting for 31 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, of all global trade.

Pakistan, which is at the fifth spot of global importers, got 51 per cent of its equipment from China and 30 per cent from the US. Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are also adding numbers to their weapons, with the US and the UK being the major suppliers.

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