In the middle of the war in Ukraine with a significant increase in arms throughout Europe and with tension between China and the United States raging in the face of a possible conflict over Taiwan, all eyes are on these areas as the epicenter of the buying and selling of the industry world arms However, according to data released this week on global arms transfers published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), perhaps another country should be focused on, and that is none other than India, the world’s largest arms importer. world between 2018 and 2022.
The gigantic Asian country, destined to become the most populous in the world in a short time, surpassing even China, has begun a race in recent years to equip itself with a military capacity commensurate with the geostrategic role it plays both due to its demography and its strength. economy, to which must be added the latent conflict that it maintains with Pakistan, which has turned both countries into nuclear powers.
In this sense, it should be noted that Russian arms exports to India, the country’s largest recipient of arms, decreased by 37%, something similar to what has happened with the rest of Moscow’s clients. Nonetheless, Russian arms exports to China (+39%) and Egypt (+44%) grew, making them Russia’s second and third largest recipients.
In contrast, it should be noted that French arms exports increased by 44% between 2013-17 and 2018-22. Most of these exports went to states in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East. India received 30% of France’s arms exports in 2018-22, with France displacing the United States as the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia.
‘France is gaining a larger share of the global arms market as Russian arms exports decline, as seen in India, for example,’ says Pieter D. Wezeman, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Program .
On the whole, the Asia and Oceania region received 41% of major arms transfers in 2018-22, a slightly lower proportion than in 2013-17. Despite the general decrease in transfers to the region, there were significant increases in some states and relevant decreases in others. Six states in the region were among the top 10 importers globally in 2018-22: India, Australia, China, South Korea, Pakistan, and Japan..
Arms imports from East Asian states increased by 21% between 2013-17 and 2018-22. Arms imports by China increased by 4.1%, with the largest share coming from Russia. However, the largest increases in East Asia were in South Korea (+61%) and Japan (+171%), treaty allies with the United States. Australia, Oceania’s largest arms importer, increased its imports by 23%.
“Increasing threat perceptions from China and North Korea have fueled increased arms import demand from Japan, South Korea and Australia, particularly for long-range attack weapons,” says Siemon T. Wezeman, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Arms Transfer Program. ‘The main supplier of the three is the United States.’
India remains the world’s top arms importer, but its imports decreased by 11% between 2013-17 and 2018-22. This decrease was related to a complex acquisition process, efforts to diversify arms suppliers and attempts to replace imports with local designss. Imports from Pakistan, the world’s eighth largest importer of arms in 2018-22, rose 14%, with China the main supplier.
As we mentioned, India, despite being the world’s largest arms importer, has reduced its purchases because it has clearly opted for its own production, especially with regard to its Navy. August 15 of this year marks the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence and, on this occasion, the Indian government gave the Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self-Sufficient India) project a tremendous boost, which is included within the Azadi Ka initiative. Amrit Mahotsav, launched to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence with 75 programs that started 75 weeks before the date indicated, that is, on March 12, 2021.
One of the major projects is the Naval Technology Acceleration Council (NTAC), which is headed by Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff.
It should not be forgotten that India, in addition to the conflict it is dragging on with Pakistan, especially over the Kashmir region, also has serious border problems with China, especially in the Himalayas. India and China share a border of more than 3,440 kilometers with limits that are not always well resolved. Since the 1950s, China has refused to recognize the borders set during the British colonial era, leading to a brief but deadly war between the two countries in 1962, which ended in a humiliating military defeat by India, a country that claims that Beijing occupies 38,000 square kilometers of its territory.
In addition, it has now been reported that the Indian Navy intends to order more than 200 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, a decision that could be approved in the coming days by the Defense Ministry. These anti-ship missiles should arm the country’s Navy warships as well as mobile missile systems on land. This is a version of these supersonic missiles with an increased flight range of up to 400 km. The Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace recently conducted successful test launches of these missiles.
Within the aforementioned self-reliance plan, it is claimed that the proportion of Indian components in the missile system has also increased, and many BrahMos missile systems have been upgraded and digitized to increase the involvement of Indian industry and manufacturers in the project.
The BrahMos was created in cooperation between Russia and India and is a development of the export version of the Russian P-800 missile. It is produced by BrahMos Aerospace in Hyderabad, India, and JSC Strela in Orenburg, Russia. The speed of the missile is 2.5-2.8 Mach, and the firing range of the basic version is up to 300 (+) km. The weight of the sea-based missile is 3000 kg and the weight of the warhead is 450 kg. It should be noted that the Russians occasionally launch P-800 missiles from Bastion missile systems, which are armed with these missiles, to attack Ukraine from Crimea.
Middle East receives high-end weapons from the US and Europe
Three of the top 10 importers in 2018-22 were from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt. Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer in 2018-22, receiving 9.6% of all arms imports in the period. Qatar’s arms imports increased by 311% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, becoming the world’s third-largest arms importer in 2018-22.
The vast majority of arms imports from the Middle East came from the United States (54%), followed by France (12%), Russia (8.6%) and Italy (8.4%). They included more than 260 advanced combat aircraft, 516 new tanks, and 13 frigates. The Arab states of the Gulf region alone have ordered more than 180 fighter jets, while Iran (which received virtually no big weapons during 2018-22) has ordered 24 from Russia.
For a long time, global arms exports have been dominated by the United States and Russia (the first and second largest arms exporters for the past three decades). However, the gap between the two has widened significantly, while the distance between Russia and the third largest supplier, France, has narrowed. US arms exports increased by 14% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, with the United States accounting for 40% of global arms exports in 2018-22. Russia’s arms exports fell by 31% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, and its share of global arms exports fell from 22% to 16%, while the France’s share increased from 7.1% to 11%.
The main recipients of Russian arms exports decreased from 10 to 8 between 2013-17 and 2018-22. Exports to India, the largest recipient of Russian arms, fell 37%, while exports to the other seven decreased by an average of 59%. However, Russian arms exports increased to China (+39%) and Egypt (+44%), which became Russia’s second and third largest recipients.
“The invasion of Ukraine is likely to further limit Russian arms exports. This is because Russia will prioritize the supply of its armed forces and demand from other states will remain low due to trade sanctions imposed on Russia, as the growing pressure from the US and its allies not to buy Russian weapons,” says Siemon T. Wezeman, senior researcher at SIPRI’s Arms Transfers Program.
• Arms imports in Southeast Asia decreased by 42% between 2013-17 and 2018-22. This decline was due, at least in part, to states continuing to absorb equipment delivered before 2018. The Philippines bucked this trend, with arms imports increasing by 64%.
• European NATO states increased their arms imports by 65% as they sought to bolster their arsenals in response to a perceived increased threat from Russia.
• US arms exports to Turkey dropped sharply between 2013-17 and 2018-22 due to bilateral tensions. Turkey fell from 7th to 27th place as the largest recipient of US arms.
• Arms imports from sub-Saharan African states fell by 23%, with Angola, Nigeria and Mali being the largest recipients. Russia overtook China as the subregion’s main arms supplier.
• Arms imports from three American states increased significantly: United States (+31%), Brazil (+48%) and Chile (+56%).
• Among the top seven arms exporters, after the US, Russia and France, five countries experienced a decline in their exports: China (-23%), Germany (-35%), UK (-35%) , Spain (-4.4%) and Israel (-15%), while two experienced large increases: Italy (+45%) and South Korea (+74%).