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India’s Arms Imports Dipping Since 2011: SIPRI

India’s Arms Imports Dipping Since 2011: SIPRI


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Mar 15: “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self-Reliant India) is just about a year-old fad of the Narendra Modi government but international reports show that India’s imports of arms has started dipping since 2011 even before the BJP government came to power.

The report on international arms transfers attributed the drop in India’s arms imports mainly to an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms and more reliance on the home-made defence equipment.

India’s arms imports fell 33 % from 2011-15 and 2016-20, said a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday. “Russia was the most affected supplier, although India’s imports of US arms also fell by 46%,” the report said, adding that India is planning large-scale arms imports in the coming years from several suppliers.

India’s top three arms suppliers during 2016-20 were Russia (accounting for 49% of India’s imports), France (18%) and Israel (13%), the report said.

India, however, has also emerged as one of the arms exporters in the last five years though its share in global export was still of a very miniscule size. According to SIPRI, India accounted for 0.2% of the share of global arms exports during 2016-20, making the country the “world’s 24th largest exporter of major arms.” This represented an increase of 228% over India’s export share of 0.1 % during the previous five-year period of 2011-15. Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius were the top recipients of Indian military hardware, the report said.

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,” SIPRI said. In the last five years, India was the biggest importer of Russian military hardware accounting for 23% of Russia’s total exports.

It also said exports by China, the world’s fifth largest arms exporter in 2016-20, fell 7.8% between 2011-15 and 2016-20. China accounted for 74% of Pakistan’s military imports during the last five years, up from 61% in 2011-15. “Pakistan is now firmly in China’s hold for its arms requirements,” defence experts said.

But SIPRI said India’s military imports are likely to grow over the next five years. “As India perceives increasing threats from Pakistan and China and as its ambitious plans to produce its own major arms have been significantly delayed, it is planning large-scale programmes for arms imports. Based on its outstanding deliveries of combat aircraft, air defence systems, ships and submarines, India’s arms imports are expected to increase over the coming five years,” the report said.

Despite reduction in India’s imports, the United States, the world’s largest arms exporter, saw its exports rise. Its global share of exports went up from 32% to 37% between 2011-15 and 2016-20.

The five largest arms exporters in 2016-20 were the US, Russia, France, Germany and China, while the top importers were Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and China.

However, in keeping with the government’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” slogan, India has set aside ₹70,221 crore – 63% of the military’s capital budget for 2021-22 for buying locally produced weapons and systems to march towards the goal of increasing reliance on indigenization in defence production.

The allocation for indigenous procurement — made for the second consecutive year — will power the purchase of Tejas LCA (light combat aircraft) Mk-1A jets, light combat helicopters (LCHs), basic trainer aircraft, Arjun Mk-1A tanks, Astra beyond-visual-range missiles, Pinaka rocket systems and anti-tank missiles. The budget will be used for making milestone payments for several domestic acquisitions through the year.

Last year, the ministry spent over ₹51,000 crore, or 58% of the capital budget, on domestic purchases.

The ₹48,000-crore contract for 83 LCA Mk-1A jets, awarded to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited last month, is the biggest indigenous defence procurement deal so far.

Basic trainers and LCHs figure on the government’s negative import list that seeks to ban the import of 101 different types of weapons, systems and ammunition over the next five years. This year, the government is likely to notify a second list of weapons, systems and ammunition that cannot be imported.

India is expected to sign a $2.5-billion contract this year for buying 56 medium transport aircraft for IAF to replace its fleet of ageing Avro-748 planes.

Airbus Defence and Space and Tata Advanced Systems Limited will jointly execute the project to equip the air force with 56 C-295 transport aircraft under the Make-in-India initiative in the aerospace sector.



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