Powered by

India remains world’s top weapons buyer despite 11 pc import fall

The country was recipient of 30 per cent of French arms exports


So dependent has India been on foreign-made weapons that despite a mega push for home-made military equipment under the Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliance) initiative, the country still topped the charts when it came to weapons import, unable to shake off a nearly three-decade-old legacy.

According to the latest report by reputed think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), released on Monday, India retained the top weapons importer tag with an 11 per cent share of total global arms imports in 2018–22.

This, despite the fact that Indian imports fell 11 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22 which was attributed to “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.”

The latest finding indicates that India has been unable to shake off its discomfiting position since 1993.

The SIPRI states that the Indian demand for arms is largely driven by “tensions with Pakistan and China”.

But certain trends are clearly notable.

Buys from Russia—historically India’s biggest weapons supplier—fell from 64 per cent to 45 per cent from 2013–17 to 2018–22. This has been attributed to “strong competition from other supplier states, increased Indian arms production, and constraints on Russia’s arms exports related to its invasion of Ukraine.”

On the other hand, India’s military trade with France is booming. It rose 44 per cent in 2018–22 from the 2013–17 period, cornering 11 per cent of the total Indian imports.

India was the recipient of 30 per cent of French arms exports—by far the largest recipient of French arms in 2018–22.

Says the report: “India’s arms imports from France, which included 62 combat aircraft and 4 submarines, increased by 489 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22.” In the process, France edged out the US to become the second largest supplier to India for the 2018–22 period.

In India’s tense neigbourhood, China accounted for 5.2 per cent of total global arms exports in 2018–22 even as its arms exports decreased by 23 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. But 54 per cent of Chinese weapons had one buyer—Pakistan.

Despite prevailing economic chaos, Pakistan continued to buy arms and its arms imports grew 14 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22 accounting for 3.7 per cent of the global total. About 77 per cent of Pakistani military buys were from one country—China.

Indian strategists often talk about the threat of a two-front war with a historically belligerent Pakistan on one side and a tumultuous relationship with China on the other.

While an uneasy ceasefire with Pakistan has been holding for some time, an ongoing border row with China is showing few signs of being resolved.

📣 The Week is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TheWeekmagazine) and stay updated with the latest headlines