Akash surface-to-air missiles are displayed at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) area during the DefExpo 20 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in this file picture from 2020. (Bloomberg)
Akash surface-to-air missiles are displayed at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) area during the DefExpo 20 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in this file picture from 2020. (Bloomberg)

33% dip in India’s weapon imports: Sipri

India accounted for 0.2% of the share of global arms exports during 2016-20, making the country the world’s 24th largest exporter of major arms. This represents an increase of 228% over India’s export share of 0.1% during the previous five-year period - 2011-15.
By Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 16, 2021 06:30 AM IST

India’s arms imports fell 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20, said a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) on Monday, at a time the country has taken a raft of measures to cut dependence on imported military hardware.

The report on international arms transfers attributed the drop in India’s arms imports mainly to an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms and complex procurement processes. “Russia was the most affected supplier, although India’s imports of US arms also fell 46%,” the report said, adding that India is planning large-scale arms imports in the coming years. India’s top three arms suppliers during 2016-20 were Russia (accounting for 49% of India’s imports), France (18%) and Israel (13%), the report said.

According to Sipri, India accounted for 0.2% of the share of global arms exports during 2016-20, making the country the world’s 24th largest exporter of major arms. This represents an increase of 228% over India’s export share of 0.1% during the previous five-year period - 2011-15. Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius were the top recipients of Indian military hardware, the report said.

The latest import data is a clear indicator that the country’s drive towards atmanirbharta (self-reliance) is showing results, said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies. “India is finally at an inflection point and the Indian defence industry is coming of age,” he said.

Arms exports by Russia, which accounted for 20% of all exports of major arms in 2016–20, dropped by 22%, the report said. “The bulk -- around 90% -- of this decrease was attributable to a 53% fall in its arms exports to India,” Sipri said. India was the biggest importer of Russian military hardware during the last five years, accounting for 23% of Russia’s total exports.

The report also said that exports by China, the world’s fifth largest arms exporter in 2016-20, fell 7.8% between 2011-15 and 2016-20. China accounted for 74% of Pakistan’s military imports during the last five years, up from 61% in 2011-15. “Pakistan is now firmly in China’s hold for its arms requirements,” Chopra said.

But the US, the world’s largest arms exporter, saw its exports rise. Its global share of arms exports went up from 32% to 37% between 2011-15 and 2016-20. The five largest arms exporters in 2016-20 were the US, Russia, France, Germany and China, while the top importers were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China.

India has set aside 70,221 crore - 63% of the military’s capital budget for 2021-22 - for buying locally produced weapons and systems to boost defence indigenisation.

But Sipri said India’s military imports are likely to grow over the next five years.

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