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India biggest importer of arms in 2017-2021, but atmanirbharta push sees volume fall by 21%

SIPRI's 2021 Trends in International Arms Transfers report says India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, and China were world's top 5 arms importers in 2017-21 period.

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New Delhi: India may be pushing for ‘atmanirbharta (indigenous development)’ in defence equipment — the central government earmarked 68 per cent of the capital budget for 2022-23 for domestic manufacturing industries — but the country remains the largest importer of arms globally, a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has shown.

Most of India’s defence imports come from Russia, the report says.

However, according to SIPRI’s Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2021 — published this month — India’s total volume of imports fell by 21 per cent from 2012-16, which could be a reflection of the push to manufacture arms and weapons systems indigenously.

The volume of global arms transfers between 2017 and 2021 was 4.6 per cent less than during the 2012-16 period, the report says. The 2017-21 global arms transfers were, however, 3.9 per cent more than for the 2007-11 period, it adds.

The five largest arms importers in the 2017-21 period were India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, and China, while the five biggest exporters of arms in the same period were the United States, Russia, France, China, and Germany.

Also read: Defence ministry’s PMA policy is protectionism. Indian-made arms need export market

India and the other major importers

According to SIPRI estimates, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, and China accounted for nearly 38 per cent of global arms imports between 2017 and 2021.

India accounted for 11 per cent of global arms imports in 2017-21, the SIPRI report says, adding that China (a neighbour with whom India shares a tense relationship) accounted for 4.8 per cent.

Russia was India’s largest supplier of arms in both 2012-16 and 2017-21. However, the volume of India’s imports from Russia fell by 47 per cent between these two periods.

Meanwhile, India’s imports from France increased substantially, making France the second-largest supplier of arms to India in this period.

The report pegs Saudi Arabia as the second biggest arms importer, while estimating the country’s percentage in world imports at 11 per cent — the same as India.

Saudi Arabia became the second largest importer of arms in 2017-21, and increased its total arms imports volume by 27 per cent during this period. The US accounted for 82 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s imports.

Egypt accounted for 5.7 per cent of global arms imports in 2017-21, while also seeing a 73 per cent increase in the volume of their imports during this period.

The fourth-largest arms importer, Australia, saw their imports rise by 62 per cent in 2017-21, as compared to 2012–16. Australia contributed to 5.4 per cent of global arms imports during 2017-21.

China’s imports, meanwhile, remained consistent (4.1 per cent of global imports) between 2012-16 and 2017-21. However, China’s imports are estimated to fall sharply in the near future as their military-industrial complex is now capable of producing most types of arms, according to SIPRI.

The five big exporters

When it came to exports, the US, Russia, France, China, and Germany accounted for nearly 77 per cent of global arms exports during the 2017-21 period, the report says. While exports from France and the US went up, those from China and Russia fell during the 2017-21 period.

Arms exports from the US grew by 14 per cent in 2017-21. The US accounted for 39 per cent of global arms exports during this period, an increase from 32 per cent in 2012-16.

The US exported nearly 108 times more arms than Russia during 2017-21, the report adds.

Russia’s arms exports fell by approximately 26 per cent during the 2017-21 period. As a result of this decrease, Russia’s share of global arms exports fell to 19 per cent in 2017-21 from 24 per cent in 2012-2016.

India, China, Egypt, and Algeria were the top four markets for Russian arms.

France accounted for nearly 11 per cent of global arms exports in 2017-21, with a 59 per cent increase in their exports during 2017-21, as compared to 2012-16. India, Qatar, and Egypt were the biggest importers of French arms.

In 2017-21, China accounted for 4.6 per cent of global arms exports, a 31 per cent drop from its exports share in 2012-16. However, 47 per cent of China’s exports during 2017-21 went to one country — their “all-weather friend” — Pakistan.

Germany’s arms exports accounted for 4.5 per cent of global exports during the 2017-21 window. The total volume of exports from Germany was 19 per cent lower than in 2012-16 and 40 per cent lower than in 2007-11.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Indian arms imports fell 33% over last five years, drop hits Russia the hardest


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