India’s arms imports fell 33 per cent between 2011-15 and 2016-20, according to a report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). According to the defence think-tank, the drop in Indian arms imports seemed to have been the result of the country’s complex procurement processes combined with an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms.
“Russia was the most affected supplier, although India’s imports of US arms also fell by 46%,” the report said. It further said India is planning large-scale arms imports in the coming years from several suppliers.
Arms exports by Russia, which accounted for 20% of all exports of major arms in 2016–20, dropped by 22%, the report said. “The bulk — around 90% — of this decrease was attributable to a 53% fall in its arms exports to India,” it said.
In the last few years, India has taken a series of measures to boost domestic defence industry with an aim to reduce dependence on imported military platforms and hardware. In reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said approval (Acceptance of Necessity) was given to 112 proposals between 2018-19 and 2020-21 (till December) worth around Rs 1.99 lakh crore under various categories of capital acquisition to promote the domestic defence manufacturing.
The government has been majorly focusing on boosting domestic defence production and set a target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore (USD 25 billion) turnover in defence manufacturing by 2025. In May, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out a number of reform measures for the defence sector including making separate budgetary outlay to procure Indian-made military hardware, increasing FDI limit from 49 per cent to 74 per cent under the automatic route and generating a year-wise negative list of weapons which won’t be imported.
The report released on Monday further said international deliveries were flat in the period 2016-2020, ending more than a decade of increases.
The United States, France and Germany - three of the world’s biggest exporters - increased deliveries, but falls in exports from Russian and China offset the rise, SIPRI said.
It was the first time since 2001–2005 that the volume of deliveries of major arms between countries - an indicator of demand - did not increase from the previous five year period, SIPRI said.
While the pandemic has shut down economies across the world and pushed many countries into deep recessions, SIPRI said it was too early to tell whether the slowdown in arms deliveries was likely to continue. “The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could see some countries reassessing their arms imports in the coming years," Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said in a statement.
“However, at the same time, even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, several countries signed large contracts for major arms."
The United Arab Emirates, for example, recently signed an agreement with the United States to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones as part of a $23 billion package.
Middle Eastern countries accounted for the biggest increase in arms imports, up 25% in 2016–20 from 2011–15.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest arms importer, increased its arms imports by 61% and Qatar by 361%.
Asia and Oceania were the largest importing regions for major arms, receiving 42% of global arms transfers in 2016–20. India, Australia, China, South Korea and Pakistan were the biggest importers in the region.
“For many states in Asia and Oceania, a growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver for arms imports," said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher at SIPRI, said.(With inputs from agencies)