India crowned as largest arms importer, Saudi Arabia claims the second spot.

The global arms trade is a lucrative industry that involves the buying and selling of weapons and military equipment. Many countries around the World invest heavily in military spending, intending to build up their defence capabilities and ensure national security. While many countries produce their own weapons, some rely heavily on imports to meet their defence needs. As a result, there are numerous arms exporters but also many arms-importing countries. According to the latest report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India remains the largest importer of arms in the World. The report comes at a time when India has been sharpening its focus on achieving self-reliance in defence manufacturing.


India remained the top importer despite an 11% drop in its arms import between 2013-17 and 2018-22. India’s share of the global arms imports was the highest in the last five years at 11%, followed by Saudi Arabia (9.6%), Qatar (6.4%), Australia (4.7%) and China (4.7%), according to data published by the think tank that counts weapons imports over five-year periods. However, the ranking system is not static, as it depends on how orders are placed in one particular year.


Established in 1966 in Stockholm, SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. In 2019 SIPRI had reported that Saudi Arabia was the World’s largest arms importer from 2014 to 2018, accounting for 12 percent of the imports, an increase of 192 percent over 2009-2013.


Saudi Arabia turned itself into the world’s largest buyer of weapons in the last 10 years. Ten years ago it was buying 90% less than they did in the last 5 years. This ramp up since 2015 was the outcome of their intervention in the Yemen civil War. 17% of arms acquired by the country since the 1952 came post 2015. The US and UK were Saudi’s top suppliers at the time and still are. With purchases of astonishingly expensive weapons like helicopters, tanks, and guided missiles, nearly all of its foreign-made weapons came from these two countries. The 2016 and 2017 shipments from the United States included 142 helicopters, eight anti-submarine aircraft, 153 tanks, and over 20,000 guided missiles.


Other findings from the SIPRI 2022 report:

  1. The global level of international arms transfers saw a drop by 5.1%.
  2. Imports of major arms by European states increased by 47% between 2013-17 and 2018-22 in the backdrop of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
  3. Arms imported by Pakistan increased by 14% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, accounting for 3.7% of the global share. China supplied 77% of arms to Pakistan in 2018-22.
  4. The U.S. share of global arms exports increased from 33% to 40%, while Russia’s fell from 22% to 16%.
  5. India was the third-largest arms supplier to Myanmar during this period.


The report also mentioned Russia as India’s largest arms supplier in the periods between 2013-17 and 2018-22, but its share of arms imports to India fell from 64% to 45%. France was the second-largest arms supplier to India, followed by the US. Russia’s position as India’s leading arms supplier is owing to strong competition from other supplier states and constraints on Russia’s arms exports related to its invasion of Ukraine. During these five years, India also imported arms from Israel, South Korea, and South Africa, which are among the top arms exporters globally.


Over the past four to five years, India has undertaken several measures to boost self-reliance in the defence sector, including a separate budget for buying locally-made military hardware and increasing foreign direct investment from 49% to 74%. The make in India initiative was met with turmoil and roadblocks in its infant stage. However, after enticing government subsidies and incentives, Government backed powerhouses popped up across India. The likes of HAL (Hindustan Aeronautical Limited), BEL (Bharat Electronics Ltd) and BDL (Bharat Dynamics Ltd) have certainly changed the momentum in the Indian markets for Military weapons and technologies. HAL’s LCA Tejas, India’s first indigenously developed 4.5 generational fighter created a milestone for the Indian Air force upon launch. The Delta styled light winged fighter did not only impress the Indian Air Force Marshals but also had keen observers from the International market, opening a gateway to exporting Military Hardware to other countries.


Following suit, looking at the success that these government backed companies have created in the Indian market; Private players could not sit idle. A booming powerhouse like India was the perfect flower waiting to be plucked. The growth rate of indigenous military hardware production in India which was predicted to grow at a steady rate suddenly witnessed an abyssal growth. Experts hold firm belief stating that if India continues the current rate of production, India will not need to import a single piece of military hardware by the 2050’s making India into a truly self-reliant nation.

Andrew s

Andrew has been in the online publishing industry. After receiving his degree in professional journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, he contributed to multiple websites as a freelance writer and feature editor. Mostly, Andrew tackles controversies and theories that lead to a specific conclusion that either debunk or justify a particular claim. Further, Andrew participates in social developments that aim to simplify every individual's way of life and fight for peace. He is the new Editor-in-Chief of Pressroom Today.

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