India Becomes World’s Largest Arms Importer

In its race to join the club of international powers, India has reached another milestone; it is now the world’s largest weapons importer.

A Swedish think tank that monitors global arms sales said Monday that
India’s weapons imports had overtaken China’s, as the country pushes on
with plans to modernise its military, counter Beijing’s influence and
gain international clout. “India has ambitions to become first a
continental and then a regional power,” said Rahul Bedi, a South Asian
analyst with London-based Jane’s Defense Weekly.

According to the report from the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute, India accounted for nine percent of all
international arms imports in the period from 2006 to 2010, and it is
expected to keep the top spot for the foreseeable future.

Indian Defence Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar declined to comment on the report before he had a chance to read it.

China dropped to the second place, with six percent of global imports,
as it continued to build up its domestic arms industry, something India
has so far failed to do, Wezeman said. The US was the largest arms
exporter, followed by Russia and Germany, according to the report. The
institute measures arms transactions over a five-year period to take
into account the long time lag between orders and delivery of arms.

India is spending billions of dollars on fighter jets and aircraft carriers to modernise its air force and navy.

With its booming economy and growing power, India has been pushing
for a greater international role, including a permanent seat on the UN
Security Council. India’s defence budget for the coming year is Rs 1.5
trillion ($32.5 billion), a 40 percent increase from two years before.
It imports more than 70 percent of its arms.

“The vast majority of those imports, 82 percent, come from Russia, which has long been India’s supplier of choice,”
the report said. But other countries have been pushing for a chunk of
the lucrative market, with world leaders streaming here in recent
months, in part to push defence deals.

During British Prime Minister David Cameron’s July visit, the two
countries announced a nearly $1.1 billion deal for India to buy 57 Hawk
advanced trainer jets. During President Barack Obama’s November visit, a
$4.1 billion sale of 10 C-17 transport aircraft was announced. France
and India moved closer to finalising a $2.1 billion Mirage 2000 fighter
aircraft upgrade deal during President Nicolas Sarkozy’s December visit,
and a few weeks later India and Russia agreed to jointly develop a
fifth generation fighter aircraft during President Dmitry Medvedev’s

India is awaiting delivery of a $2.3 billion rebuilt aircraft carrier
from Russia, as it builds another carrier itself, and has ordered six
submarines worth $4.5 billion from France.

India is also in the market to buy 126 fighter jets, a deal worth $11
billion, and about 200 helicopters worth another $4 billion. It also
has plans to buy large amphibious landing ships at $300 million to $500
million each and is discussing another $10 billion submarine order,
Wezeman said.

“The kind of purchases that India is buying, no country in the world
buys,” Bedi said, adding, “What is in the pipeline is huge”.