India continues to be the world’s top importer of major weapons and military equipment, accounting for 11 per cent of the global arms imports between 2018 and 2022, says a report released on Monday by the Swedish think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
While this suggests the Narendra Modi government’s “Make in India” motto for the defence sector has a long way to catch up, the report says Indian arms imports fell 11 per cent between the periods 2013- 17 and 2018-22, partly because of domestic production.
Saudi Arabia was the world’s second-largest arms importer for the 2018-22 period followed by Qatar, Australia and China.
Ukraine became the third-largest importer of major arms during 2022 (after Qatar and India) as a result of military aid from the US and many European nations following the Russian invasion in February 2022, the report says.
Kyiv, which had imported few major arms since Ukrainian independence in 1991 till the end of 2021, was the 14th biggest overall importer during 2018-22, it adds.
Prime Minister Modi had last month said that India had “rejuvenated” its defence production sector in the last eight to nine years and was looking at increasing its export of military hardware from $1.5 billion to $5 billion by 2024-25.
“India’s tensions with Pakistan and China largely drive its demand for arms imports,” the Sipri report says.
“With 11 per cent of total global arms imports, India was the world’s biggest importer of major arms in 2018-2022, 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, the report says, can be attributed to factors such as 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.
Imports by Pakistan, the world’s eighth-largest arms importer in 2018-22, increased 14 per cent, with China as the main supplier, the report says.
Arms imports by China rose 4.1 per cent, most of it coming from Russia. Russia was the biggest supplier of arms to India during 2013-17 and 2018-22 but its share of total Indian arms imports fell from 64 per cent to 45 per cent.
France emerged as the second-largest supplier in the 2018-22 period, accounting for 29 per cent of India’s imports.
During 2018-22 India was the biggest arms export market for Russia, France and Israel. According to the report, the US, Russia and France were the world’s three biggest arms exporters in 2018-22 with a 40 per cent, 16 per cent and 11 per cent share of the global market, respectively.
South Korea and Japan were among the 10 largest arms importers globally in 2018-22.