India is World’s top arms importer: SIPRI

Arms imports by East Asian states increased by 21 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22.
An army man patrols along the border in Jammu's Akhnoor ahead of R-Day and amid low visibility in the region. [Representational Image]
An army man patrols along the border in Jammu's Akhnoor ahead of R-Day and amid low visibility in the region. [Representational Image] File: Mir Imran for Greater Kashmir

New Delhi, Mar 13: India remains the World’s top arms importer, however, its imports declined by 11 per cent between 2013-17 and 2018-22.

The decline was linked to India’s efforts to diversify arms suppliers and attempts to replace imports with local designs, said the latest Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI) arms transfer data report.

Meanwhile, the United States share of global arms exports increased from 33 to 40 per cent while Russia’s fell from 22 to 16 per cent, according to new data on global arms transfers published by SIPRI today.

Russian arms exports decreased to 8 of its ten biggest recipients between 2013-17 and 2018-22. Exports to India, the largest recipient of Russian arms, fell by 37 per cent, while exports to the other 7 decreased by an average of 59 per cent. However, Russian arms exports increased to China (+39 per cent) and Egypt (+44 per cent), and they became Russia’s second and third largest recipients, said the report issued by SIPRI.

In the intervening time imports of major arms by European states increased by 47 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22, while the global level of international arms transfers decreased by 5.1 per cent.

Arms imports fell overall in Africa (–40 per cent), the Americas (–21 per cent), Asia and Oceania (–7.5 per cent) and the Middle East (–8.8 per cent)—but imports to East Asia and certain states in other areas of high geopolitical tension rose sharply.

Ukraine becomes the world’s third-largest arms importer in 2022

From 1991 until the end of 2021, Ukraine imported a few major arms. As a result of military aid from the USA and many European states following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,

Ukraine became the 3rd biggest importer of major arms during 2022 (after Qatar and India) and the 14th biggest for 2018–22. Ukraine accounted for 2.0 per cent of global arms imports in the five years. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European states want to import more arms, faster.

Asia and Oceania are the top importing region

Asia and Oceania received 41 per cent of major arms transfers in 2018–22, a slightly smaller share than in 2013–17. Despite the overall decline in transfers to the region, there were marked increases in some states and marked decreases in others. Six states in the region were among the 10 largest importers globally in 2018–22: India, Australia, China, South Korea, Pakistan and Japan read the press release issued by SIPRI.

Arms imports by East Asian states increased by 21 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22. Arms imports by China rose by 4.1 per cent, with most coming from Russia.

However, the biggest increases in East Asia were by US treaty allies South Korea (+61 per cent) and Japan (+171 per cent). Australia, the largest arms importer in Oceania, increased its imports by 23 per cent.

‘Growing perceptions of threats from China and North Korea have driven rising demand for arms imports by Japan, South Korea and Australia, notably including for long-range strike weapons,’ said Siemon T. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘The main supplier for all three is the USA.’

Middle East receives high-end US and European arms

Three of the top 10 importers in 2018–22 were in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second-largest arms importer in 2018–22 and received 9.6 per cent of all arms imports in the period. Qatar’s arms imports increased by 311 per cent between 2013–17 and 2018–22, making it the world’s third biggest arms importer in 2018–22.

The majority of arms imports to the Middle East came from the USA (54 per cent), followed by France (12 per cent), Russia (8.6 per cent) and Italy (8.4 per cent). They included more than 260 advanced combat aircraft, 516 new tanks and 13 frigates. Arab states in the Gulf region alone have placed orders for more than 180 combat aircraft, while 24 have been ordered from Russia by Iran (which received virtually no major arms during 2018–22).

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