India still world’s top weapons buyer, SIPRI says

India still world’s top weapons buyer, SIPRI says
# 11 March 2024 13:12 (UTC +04:00)

The extent of India’s dependence on foreign weapons historically can be gleaned from the fact that despite a full-steam ‘atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance effort to indigenise its military equipment, India still continues to be the world’s biggest buyer of weapons from abroad, data from the leading think-tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), indicated on Monday, APA reports

In the five-year period between 2014–18 and 2019–23, India’s arms imports rose by 4.7 per cent. It would have been prompted by the prospect of a two-front challenge that India faces in the backdrop of border skirmishes leading to escalating tension with China besides the traditional relationship of belligerence with Pakistan.

But what is significant in the Indian context is the fact that Russia made up for 36 per cent of India’s buys—the first five-year period ever since 1960–64 that it made up less than half of India’s arms imports.

Yet Russia remains India’s top source for weapons. This again is indicative of a conscious Indian effort to wean away from dependence on Russia besides the fact Russia’s weapon selling capability is somewhat curtailed by its ongoing war in Ukraine.

The Indian sub-continental neighbourhood remains a heated one with a close China-Pakistan military collusion with China being the source for 82 per cent of Pakistan’s arms imports.

“The US increased its arms exports by 17 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23, while Russia’s arms exports halved. Russia was for the first time the third largest arms exporter, falling just behind France,” said a SIPRI release.

Leading weapons seller US has sent its weapons to 107 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of the total number of countries in the world.

Faced with an unprecedented strategic, economic, and military challenge by the rise of an increasingly powerful China, US’ weapon sales “grew by 17 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23” while its “share of total global arms exports rose from 34 per cent to 42 per cent”.

Together, the US and Western Europe cornered the lion’s share of 72 per cent of all arms exports in 2019–23. It was 62 per cent in 2014–18.

France took the biggest strides in selling with its flagship high-value Rafale fighter contributing in a big way to become the world’s second biggest weapons seller, edging out a beleaguered Russia for the first time.

Between 2014–18 and 2019–23, France’s arms sales rose a mind-boggling 47 per cent. The biggest buyer of French armaments was India.

While the Indian Air Force is already operating 36 Rafale fighters—the fruits of a 2016 deal—the process to acquire another 26 Rafale M fighters for the Indian Navy is understood to be underway.