India remains second-largest arms importer in 2019

India remains second-largest arms importer in 2019
India remains second-largest arms importer in 2019

India retains its position as the second-largest arms importer in the world followed by Saudi Arabia, says a new report.

‘India was the second-largest arms importer in the world over the past five years, while its neighbour Pakistan ranked 11th,’ notes the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute that tracks arms deals around the world.

After retaining the pole position for a decade, India slipped to the second slot last year due to an increase in indigenous arms production. The same trend continues. Between 2015-19, New Delhi imported 9.2% of its arms as compared to 14% between 2010-14 – a drop of 32%.

Saudi Arabia now imports 12% of its arms (2015-19) as against 5.6% in 2010-14 – a jump of 130%. In the same period, Pakistan’s import declined by 39%.

The SIPRI report shows how Russia gradually lost the lucrative Indian arms market over the years, though the communist country remains a key supplier. Also Russia’s loss was not exactly a US gain as India diversified its supply to Israel and France.

Although India remains the main recipient of Russian arms in 2015-19, accounting for 25% of the total, Russian arms exports to India fell by 47 per cent between 2010-14 and 2015-19.

The USA became the second-largest arms supplier to India in 2010-14 as the security relationship between the two countries 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% lower than in 2010-14.

In contrast, arms imports from Israel and France increased by 175% and 715% (thanks to the Rafale deal) respectively, making them the second and third-largest suppliers of major arms to India in 2015-19.

China, on the other hand, accounted for 51% of Pakistan’s arms imports in 2010-14 and for 73% in 2015-19 continuing its dominance in the arms market of its all-weather ally.

The overall decrease in Pakistan’s arms imports was linked to the USA’s decision to stop military aid to Pakistan. The USA accounted for 30% of Pakistan’s arms imports in 2010-14 but for only 4.1% in 2015-19.

Pakistan continued to import arms from Europe in 2015-19 and strengthened its arms import relations with Turkey with orders for 30 combat helicopters and four frigates in 2018.

SIPRI has identified 160 states as importers of major arms in 2015-19. The top five —Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China — account for 36% of total arms imports in 2015-19. Of these, Saudi Arabia, India and China were among the top five importers in both 2010-14 and 2015-19.

The peace institute gave the example of Balakot air strike to illustrate how heavily India and Pakistan depend on imported arms for any conflict.

‘Cross-border attacks between India and Pakistan intensified in early 2019. 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,’ says the report.

‘Many of the world’s largest arms exporters have supplied these two states for decades, often exporting arms to both sides,’ it adds.

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