India is the world’s biggest importer of weapons, accounting for 12 percent of global purchases during the past five years because it is not able to produce enough arms to meet its requirements, according to the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). India’s imports rose 24 percent during the past five calendar years, 2013-17, compared to the previous five-year period, 2008-12, according to a SIPRI study released this week. “The tensions between India, on the one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fueling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself,” SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman wrote. “China, by contrast, is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons,” Wezeman pointed out.
SIPRI, which tracks the global arms trade, uses its own accounting system called Trend-Indicator Value (TIV) to measure the arms transactions in order to arrive at a uniform valuation given the differences in currencies and accounting methods by various countries and inadequate monetary data. According SIPRI data using this method, India’s total TIV rose from 14,608 during 2008-12 to 18,048 in 2013-17. However, India’s arms purchases have come down during the last three full years of BJP government compared to the last three full years of the Congress-led UPA rule.
During 2011-13 when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister, India imported arms worth 13,319 TIV but only 9,499 TIV in 2015-17 under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When both leaders held power at different times during 2014, the imports were 3,227 TIV. In 2013, India’s imports were 5,322 TIV, up from 1,845 in 2008.
In contrast to India, Pakistan’s arms imports declined significantly during the last five years, when imports from the US dropped dramatically compared to the previous five years while supplies from China increased. “Despite its continuing tensions with India and ongoing internal conflicts, Pakistan’s arms imports decreased by 36 per cent between 2008-12 and 2013-17,” the report said. “Pakistan accounted for 2.8 per cent of global arms imports in 2013-17.”
Pakistan’s arms imports from the US dropped by 76 percent in the latest five-year period compared with the previous five, the study said. China was Pakistan’s main source of arms in 2013-17, and there was a large increase in Chinese arms exports to Bangladesh in that period, SIPRI said. As New Delhi diversifies its arms purchases, the US is rapidly increasing its arms sales to India, emerging over the last five years as its second biggest supplier, according SIPRI.
The share of India’s imports from the US increased from 2.7 percent of its total during 2008-12 to 15 percent in the latest five-year period – recording a 557 percent increase – as it leapfrogged over Uzbekistan, Britain and Israel.
Israel has moved up to the third spot accounting for 11 percent of India’s imports during the 2013-17, compared to 3.7 percent in 2008-12 showing a 285 percent increase, according to the study.
Although Russia remained by far India’s biggest arms seller, its share of total imports has fallen. Russia had a 62 percent share of India’s arms imports during the past five years, down from 79 percent in 2008-12, according to SIPRI. Uzbekistan, which was India’s second biggest import source accounting for 4.3 of its purchases abroad during 2008-12 did not sell any after 2011, according to the data.
Weapons imports from Britain fell to 3.2 percent of the total during the last five years, while it was 5.2 percent in 2008-12, a drop of 23 percent during that period that moved it down from the third spot to the fifth. France has moved up to the fourth spot accounting for 4.6 percent of India’s imports during the last five years, an increase of 572 percent compared to just 0.8 percent.