by Pavan Nair
According to data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI www.sipri.org), India is now the largest importer of arms with China coming a poor second followed by South Korea, Pakistan and Greece. SIPRI uses a five-year moving average to capture trends in arms transfers. Till last year, China topped the list with India coming a close second. Asia and Oceania tops the regional list and accounts for 43% of total imports of conventional weapons (excluding small arms) during the period from 2006 to 2010 followed by Europe (21%), the Middle East (17%), the Americas (12%) and Africa (7%). India received 9% of the weapons exported with the bulk of its munitions coming from Russia (82%) followed by UK (6%) and Israel (3%). This is going to change with the US and France jumping into the fray with major deals for ships, submarines, guns and aircraft in the pipeline. India’s volume of imports in 2006-2010 was 21% higher than during the period 2001-2005. Aircraft accounted for 71% of deliveries. In 2010, the deliveries included 35 Su-30 MK1 and 10 MIG-29 SMT combat aircraft from Russia as well as a second Phalcon airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft from Israel. It is interesting to note that though China received 6% of world-wide exports (mostly from Russia), it also contributed 3% to the world’s exports with Pakistan being a major receiver. South Korea received 6% of transfers with 71% of its imports from the US. Pakistan at 5% is at fourth place with 39% of imports received from the US and 38% from China. Greece at 4% is at fifth place with Germany, USA and France being major suppliers.
The top suppliers of weapon systems are USA, Russia, Germany, France and UK. The top five account for 75% of total transfers with USA (30%) and Russia (23%) supplying bulk of the arms during the period 2006-2010 (Table 1). There has been an increase of 24% in terms of volume of transfers from the period 2001-2005. This clearly indicates that the world-wide recession has had little or no impact on the arms industry. The US continues to lead the suppliers with transfers made to 75 recipient countries. Asia and Oceania was the major receiver of US arms accounting for 44% of total exports with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan receiving 22%. The Middle East accounted for 28% and Europe for 19%. The SIPRI Fact Sheet ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2010’ states that the US has decided to supply its allies with advanced weapon systems so that they can meet their own security needs more effectively and reduce dependency on US troops stationed overseas. There is however another consideration of keeping its military-industrial-complex in good health.
According to the fact sheet, ‘Six of the 10 largest importers in 2006-10 are from the Asia and Oceania Region : India (1st), China (2nd), South Korea (3rd), Pakistan (4th), Singapore (7th) and Australia (9th). Arms transfers to Pakistan increased by 128% between the periods 2001-05 and 2006-10. Aircraft accounted for 45% of imports. Deliveries to Pakistan in 2010 include 18 F-16 combat aircraft from the USA, 15 JF-17 combat aircraft from China and 3 Erieye AEW aircraft from Sweden. Pakistan also received large numbers of air to air missiles and guided bombs from China and USA and anti radar missiles from Brazil.’ In recent years, the composition of the five largest recipients has remained relatively stable. In the period 2006-10, their share of volume of transfers dropped from 39% in 2001-05 to 30% (Table 2).
The total volume of India’s arms imports over the past five years is about 40 billion dollars. This figure is going to increase with each passing year as several big-ticket deals are in the process of being signed. There is the 10 billion dollar deal for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, the 7 billion dollar deal for supply of C130 J and Globemaster-17 transport aircraft by the US, the ongoing Scorpene submarine deal with France valued at 4 billion dollars and several smaller deals for maritime aircraft, guns, radars, helicopters, missiles and tanks valued cumulatively at several billion dollars. Based on current allocations, over the next five years India is expected to spend 75 billion dollars on procurement of conventional weapon systems out of which 60 billion dollars worth of equipment will be imported. This may be good news for the arms industry but there is a need to utilise the capacity of the 39 Ordnance Factories and 9 PSUs which have been created at heavy public expense. It is also a matter of grave concern that India continues to import state of the art defence equipment whilst languishing in the human development index. There seems to be a direct connection between the fact that India tops the list of arms importers and also tops in rates of child-malnutrition. Given the profligacy of the security establishment, it is highly unlikely that defence spending will be reduced to 1.76% of the GDP by 2014-2015 as recommended by the 13th Finance Commission. In the budget for 2011-12, the total defence outlay (inclusive of defence civil estimates) is Rs 2,02,571 crores which is 2.3% of the expanded GDP. With several heads of state visiting New Delhi primarily to push weapon sales, the only direction that figure will move is northwards.
Col Pavan Nair (Retd) has served in Punjab and J&K and is also a civil engineer
Courtesy: Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), 9 April 2011, Vol XLVI No.15
(The views expressed in the article are that of the author and do not represent the views of the editorial committee or the centre for land warfare studies)
THE TOP FIVE SUPPLIERS OF CONVENTIONAL WEAPON SYSTEMS AND THEIR LARGEST RECIPIENTS, 2006-10
Supplier % Share Major Recipients (share of suppliers transfers)
1st 2nd 3rd
United States 30 South Korea (14%) Australia (9%) UAE (8%)
Russia 23 India (33%) China (23%) Algeria (13%)
Germany 11 Greece (15%) South Africa (11%) Turkey (10%)
France 7 Singapore (23%) UAE (16%) Greece (12%)
United Kingdom 4 United States (23%) Saudi Arabia (19%) India (13%)
Source SIPRI Fact Sheet cited above
THE TOP FIVE RECIPIENTS OF CONVENTIONAL WEAPON SYSTEMS AND THEIR LARGEST SUPPLIERS, 2006-10
Recipient % Share Major Suppliers (share of recipient’s transfers)
1st 2nd 3rd
India 9 Russia (82%) United Kingdom (6%) Israel (3%)
China 6 Russia (84%) France (5%) Switzerland (3%)
South Korea 6 United States (71%) Germany (16%) France (9%)
Pakistan 5 United States (39%) China (38%) Sweden (6%)
Greece 4 Germany (39%) United States (29%) France (21%)
Source: SIPRI Fact Sheet cited above