India is the leading top five arms importer in the Asia and Oceania region followed by Australia, China, South Korea and Vietnam. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Indian arms imports decreased by 24 per cent between 2009 – 2013 and 2014 – 2018.
For nearly a decade, India was the largest arms importer in the international market, increasing from 7 per cent to 14. Experts say one of the main reasons for this is that India lacks a defence industry of its own sufficient to meet its external challenges. Another reason was for it to keep up with its ever-expanding strategic interests.
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The latest report highlights that India ordered a large number of ‘major arms’ from foreign suppliers, however, the deliveries are severely delayed. China, on the other hand, decreased arms import because it has been more successful in designing and producing its ‘own modern weaponry’. Russia accounted for 58 per cent of Indian arms import in 2014 – 2018, compared with 76 per cent in 2009 – 2013. Israel, the United States and France increased their arms exports to India in 2014 – 2018, with the Russian share likely to spike sharply during the next five years as India recently signed several big ticket deals. It includes S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, a second nuclear attack submarine on lease and deals for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems.
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Experts attribute India’s status as ‘top spender’ on arms imports because of the ‘need to modernize’. Moreover, analysts say India’s defence industry lacks a clear-cut vision, thus, the continued reliance on foreign suppliers. India continues to ‘spend big’ on arms due to continued tensions with neighbor, Pakistan. And the prospect of conflict with Pakistan is very much real. The world got a glimpse of it in February-end this year when the two nuclear-powered countries engaged in a tit-for-tat aerial dog fight following the Pulwama terror attack in Kashmir.