India world’s top arms importer between 2019-23: SIPRI report


In its latest report released this month, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an international institute that provides data, analysis and recommendations for armed conflict, military expenditure and arms trade, said that India has once again emerged as the world’s top arms importer in the five-year period from 2019 and 2023 accounting for 9.8 per cent of the global arms trade. India was the world’s top importer of arms between 2014 and 2018 as well, with 9.1 per cent of overall purchases made by 170 countries.

The report reveals that the world’s top five arms importers — India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Ukraine and Pakistan — received 35 per cent of all arms imports in the period 2019-23 period. “States in Asia and Oceania accounted for 37 per cent of all arms imports in 2019–23, followed by states in the Middle East (30 per cent), Europe (21 per cent), the Americas (5.7 per cent) and Africa (4.3 per cent),” the report said.

It added, “India’s tensions with Pakistan and China largely drive its arms imports. India’s arms imports increased by 4.7 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23, making it the world’s biggest arms importer in 2019–23 with a 9.8 per cent share of all arms imports. Russia remained India’s main supplier, but its share of Indian arms imports has shrunk from 76 per cent in 2009–13 to 58 per cent in 2014–18 and then to 36 per cent in 2019–23. India has instead looked to Western suppliers, most notably France and the USA, and its own arms industry to meet its demand for major arms.”

(indica readers can download SIPRI’s 2024 report here)

It said that the shift is also visible in India’s new orders, many of which are placed with Western suppliers, and its arms procurement plans, which seemingly do not include any Russian options.

Meanwhile, arms imports by Pakistan grew by 43 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23 and accounted for 4.3 per cent of the world total, making it the fifth largest arms importer globally. Pakistan continued to strengthen its arms procurement relations with China: 82 per cent of its arms imports came from China in 2019–23, as against 69 per cent in 2014–18, and 51 per cent in 2009–13.

Russia, France and the US accounted for the top three suppliers to India’s arms imports, respectively accounting for 36, 33 and 13 per cent of the country’s overall purchases.

The report added: “Nine of the 10 biggest arms importers in 2019–23, including the top 3 of India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were in Asia and Oceania or the Middle East. Ukraine became the fourth biggest arms importer globally after it received transfers of major arms from over 30 states in 2022–23. Arms exports by the United States, the world’s largest arms supplier, rose by 17 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23, while those by Russia fell by more than half (–53 per cent). France’s arms exports grew by 47 per cent and it moved just ahead of Russia to become the world’s second largest arms supplier.”

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