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India 3rd largest military spender, 50% defence exports go to Myanmar, shows data from SIPRI

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says India's defence spending in 2021 was up 0.9% from 2020. Rise comes on back of border tensions and ‘Make in India’ push. 

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New Delhi: India’s military spending in 2021 is the third highest in the world at Rs 5.87 lakh crore or $76.6 billion —  behind the United States and China but ahead of the United Kingdom and Russia — data released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed.

SIPRI is an independent international institution that focuses on conflict, armaments, arms control, and disarmament.

The data takes into account India’s complete defence budget, a major portion of which goes into pensions and salaries. 

The SIPRI data also shows that roughly 50 per cent of India’s defence exports from 2017 to 2021 were to its immediate neighbour Myanmar, followed by Sri Lanka at 25 per cent and Armenia at 11 per cent. 

Last month, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt told the Lok Sabha that the value of India’s arms exports has gone up six-fold since 2014, with the 2021-22 financial year figure at Rs 11,607 crore, about six times more than the Rs 1,941 crore registered in FY 2014-15. 

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Border tensions, Make in India

According to SIPRI, India’s annual defence spending was up 0.9 per cent from 2020, and 33 per cent from 2012 — a sign of the ongoing border situations with China and Pakistan as well as India’s push towards developing more indigenous weapons. 

“Amid ongoing tensions and border disputes with China and Pakistan that occasionally spill over into armed clashes, India has prioritised modernisation of its armed forces and self-reliance in arms production. In a drive to strengthen the indigenous arms industry, 64 per cent of capital outlays in the 2021 Indian military budget were earmarked for acquisitions of domestically produced arms,” SIPRI said.  

According to the report, the increase in India’s expenditure forms part of an overall global increase in military expenditure, “as the internationally consolidated figure crossed the $2 trillion mark for the first time ever, owing to worldwide economic recovery following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

Exports to Myanmar

Another SIPRI report released last month said although one of the most high-profile export deals that India inked this year is the $375 million — or Rs 2,872 crore — deal with the Philippines to export BrahMos supersonic missile, the biggest beneficiary of India’s defence exports in the last five years is Myanmar. 

According to SIPRI data on international arms transfer trends, roughly 50 per cent of India’s defence exports from 2017 to 2021 were to Myanmar, followed by Sri Lanka at 25 per cent, and Armenia at 11 per cent. 

However, India is only Myanmar’s third-biggest supplier, at 17 per cent, behind China and Russia at 36 and 27 per cent, respectively, the data showed. 

At the same time, India reduced its arms imports while still remaining among the world’s biggest importers, SIPRI said. 

“Because of perceived growing threats from China and Pakistan and because of significant delays in the production of its own major arms, India has large-scale plans for arms imports,” SIPRI said in its report. “The drop in India’s arms imports is, therefore, probably a temporary result of its slow and complex procurement process as well as its shift in suppliers.”

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

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