India world’s top arms importer between 2019-23: SIPRI

While European arms imports have shot up, France has emerged world’s second largest arms exporter displacing Russia

March 12, 2024 07:30 pm | Updated March 13, 2024 02:04 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Logo of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Photo: X/@SIPRIorg

Logo of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Photo: X/@SIPRIorg

India was the world’s top arms importer for the period 2019-23 with imports having gone up by 4.7% compared to the period 2014-18, according to the Swedish think tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). At the same time, arms imports by European countries increased by 94% between 2014–18 and 2019–23, the report said, which comes in the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

“Although Russia remained India’s main arms supplier [accounting for 36% of its arms imports], this was the first five-year period since 1960–64 when deliveries from Russia [or the Soviet Union prior to 1991] made up less than half of India’s arms imports,” as per new data on international arms transfers from SIPRI released on Monday. “Nine of the 10 biggest arms importers in 2019–23, including the top 3 of India, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were in Asia and Oceania or the Middle East. Ukraine became the fourth biggest arms importer globally after it received transfers of major arms from over 30 states in 2022-23.”

In the interim budget presented in February for financial year 2024-25, the total allocation for the Defence Ministry was at ₹6.2 lakh crore of which the capital allocation, for new procurements, was ₹1.72 lakh crore, 5.78% higher than the Budget Estimates of last year. India seems to have come back to the top slot in arms imports after briefly ceding space to Saudi Arabia in the past.

Imports of Pakistan, the fifth largest arms importer in 2019–23, went up by 43%, with China supplying as much as 82% of all its arms imports.

Arms exports of the world’s largest supplier, U.S. grew by 17% between 2014–18 and 2019–23, while those by Russia fell by more than half, -53%. At the same time, France emerged as the world’s second largest arms supplier as its exports grew by 47%. Among the top 10 arms exporters, five of them saw decrease between the two five-year periods: China (-5.3%), Germany (-14%), U.K. (-14%), Spain (-3.3%) and Israel (-25%).

Europe’s capacity

Over half of arms imports by European countries, 55%, in 2019–23 were from the U.S., up from 35% in 2014–18. “More than half of arms imports by European states come from the U.S.A.. While at the same time, Europe is responsible for about a third of global arms exports, including large volumes going outside the region, reflecting Europe’s strong military–industrial capacity,” said SIPRI Director Dan Smith.

In this regard, Mathew George, Director of the SIPRI arms transfers programme, said the U.S. had increased its global role as an arms supplier — an important aspect of its foreign policy — exporting more arms to more countries than it has ever done in the past. “This comes at a time when the U.S.A.’s economic and geopolitical dominance is being challenged by emerging powers.”

On France, which is now the second largest arms supplier, the report said 42% of its arms went to states in Asia and Oceania, and another 34% to the Middle East. “The largest single recipient of French arms exports was India, which accounted for nearly 30%. The increase in French arms exports was largely due to deliveries of combat aircraft to India, Qatar and Egypt,” the report stated.

“With many high-value arms on order — including nearly 800 combat aircraft and combat helicopters — European arms imports are likely to remain at a high level,” said Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI arms transfers programme. “In the past two years we have also seen much greater demand for air defence systems in Europe, spurred on by Russia’s missile campaign against Ukraine.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.