India was 2nd largest arms importer in 2015-19, Russia remained largest supplier
India retained its position as the world’s second largest arms importer during 2015-19, with Russia remaining the largest supplier even though its share of Indian weapons purchased declined from 72% to 56%, according to a leading think tank that tracks arms transfers.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual “Trends in international arms transfers 2019” report, released on Monday, the five largest arms importers during the five-year period were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China, which together accounted for 36% of all arms imports.
Saudi Arabia, India and China were also among the top five importers during 2010–14. During 2015-19, Pakistan was ranked the 11th largest arms importer in the world.
India has been in the second place, behind Saudi Arabia, in SIPRI’s list of arms importers for several years as it has moved in recent years to modernise its armed forces by acquiring combat jets, helicopters, submarines, warships, artillery guns and assault rifles from sources such as Russia, the US, France and Israel.
According to data from SIPRI for the period 2015-19, India also acquired military hardware from other countries, including Scanter-6000 radars from Denmark, Embraer ERJ-145 jets for a home-grown airborne early warning and control system, ACTAS sonar systems from Germany, Super Rapid 76mm naval guns from Italy and K-9 Thunder 155mm artillery guns from South Korea.
The report listed India in the 23rd slot among the world’s 25 largest arms exporters, with its main clients being Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.
The report said India’s arms imports from both Russia and the US fell during the five-year period, though the decline was more pronounced in the case of Russian arms deals. India accounted for 25% of total Russian arms exports.
“Russia was the largest supplier to India in 2010-14 and 2015-19, but deliveries fell by 47 per cent and its share of total Indian arms imports went from 72 to 56 per cent,” it said. Russian arms exports accounted for 21% of total exports during 2015-19 but were 18% lower than in 2010-14.
The US emerged as India’s second-largest arms supplier during 2010-14 as security ties between the two sides developed into a strategic partnership. “However, in 2015-19 India continued with its policy of supplier diversification, and imports of arms from the USA were 51 per cent lower than in 2010-14,” the report said.
In contrast, arms imports from Israel and France increased, by 175% and 715% respectively, making them the second- and third-largest suppliers during 2015-19.
Total US arms exports to Asia were down by 20% when compared to 2010-14 as a result of decreases in exports to India (–51%), Pakistan (–92%), Singapore (–60%), South Korea (–34%) and Taiwan (–38%).
Between 2010-14 and 2015-19, arms imports by India and Pakistan decreased by 32% and 39% respectively. “While both countries have long-standing aims to produce their own major arms, they remain largely dependent on imports and have substantial outstanding orders and plans for imports of all types of major arms,” the report said.
China accounted for 51% of Pakistan’s arm imports during 2010-14 and 73% during 2015-19. The overall decrease in Pakistan’s arms imports was linked to the US decision to stop military aid to Pakistan in 2018. The US accounted for 30% of Pakistan’s arms imports during 2010-14 but for only 4.1% during 2015–19.
Pakistan also strengthened its arms import relations with Turkey, with orders for 30 combat helicopters and four frigates in 2018.
The report also noted that India and Pakistan had used imported weapons in clashes following the 2019 suicide attack in Pulwama by the Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 troopers.
“Pakistan reportedly used combat aircraft imported from China, equipped with Russian engines, and combat aircraft from the USA supported by airborne early warning and control aircraft from Sweden. India reportedly used combat aircraft imported from France and Russia, guided bombs from Israel and artillery from Sweden,” it said.