• India
  • Mar 14

India remains world’s top arms importer, SIPRI report

• India remained the world’s top arms importer, but its imports declined by 11 per cent between 2013-17 and 2018-22, according to a report released by Stockholm-based defence think-tank SIPRI.

• The decline was linked to a complex procurement process, efforts to diversify arms suppliers and attempts to replace imports with local designs, the report said.

• The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said the five largest arms importers in the world during 2018-22 were India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia and China. 

• These five countries received 36 per cent of total global arms imports in the period. 

• The five largest arms exporters were the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany.

What is SIPRI?

• SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

• SIPRI was established on the basis of a decision by the Swedish Parliament and receives a substantial part of its funding in the form of an annual grant from the Swedish government.

India’s arms import declines by 11% 

• India’s tensions with Pakistan and China largely drive its demand for arms imports. 

• With an 11 per cent share of total global arms imports, India was the world’s biggest importer of major arms in 2018–22, a position it has held for the period 1993–2022. 

• It retained this position even though its arms imports dropped by 11 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. 

• The decrease can be attributed to several factors including India’s slow and complex arms procurement process, efforts to diversify its arms suppliers, and attempts to replace imports with major arms that are designed and produced domestically.

• Russia was the largest supplier of arms to India in both 2013–17 and 2018–22, but its share of total Indian arms imports fell from 64 per cent to 45 per cent. Russia’s position as India’s main arms supplier is under pressure due to strong competition from other supplier states, increased Indian arms production, and Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

• India’s arms imports from France, which included 62 combat aircraft and four submarines, increased by 489 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. France therefore displaced the US to become the second largest supplier to India in 2018–22.

Ukraine is world’s third largest arms importer in 2022

• The war in Ukraine had only a limited impact on the total volume of arms transfers in 2018–22, but Ukraine did become a major importer of arms in 2022.

• From 1991, when Ukraine became independent amid the fall of the Soviet Union, until the end of 2021, Ukraine imported few major arms.

• But Russia's invasion on February 24 last year markedly changed that, as the United States and many European states began to send large quantities of military aid to Ukraine.

• As a result, it became the third largest importer of major arms in 2022, after Qatar and India, and the 14th largest for the five-year period 2018–22.

China’s arms exports to Pakistan

• China accounted for 5.2 per cent of total global arms exports in 2018–22. Its arms exports decreased by 23 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. 

• The vast majority of Chinese arms exports (80 per cent) went to countries in Asia and Oceania. 

• China delivered major arms to 46 countries in 2018–22, but over half of its arms exports (54 per cent) went to just one country — Pakistan.

• Arms imports by Pakistan increased by 14 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22 and accounted for 3.7 per cent of the global total. China supplied over three quarters (77 per cent) of Pakistan’s arms imports in 2018–22. 

Other key points:

• The volume of international transfers of major arms in 2018–22 was 5.1 per cent lower than in 2013–17 and 4.8 per cent higher than in 2008–12.

• The five largest arms exporters in 2018–22 were the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany. Together, they supplied 76 per cent of the world’s arms exports in 2018–22.

• France’s arms exports increased by 44 per cent between 2013-17 and 2018-22 and most of these exports were to countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East.

• The United States’ share of global arms exports increased from 33 to 40 per cent, while Russia’s fell from 22 to 16 per cent.

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