India is the world’s largest arms importer according to new data on international arms transfers published today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The Swedish think-tank says India purchased 9% of the volume of international arms transfers during the period 2006–10, with Russian sales accounting for 82% per of Indian imports. India was followed by China (6%), South Korea (6%) and Pakistan (5%).
“Indian imports of major conventional weapons are driven by a range of factors,” says Siemon Wezeman of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. “The most often cited relate to rivalries with Pakistan and China as well as internal security challenges. As an importer, India is demanding offsets and transfers of technology to boost its own arms industry, and, in order to secure orders, major suppliers are agreeing to such demands”.
SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme director Dr Paul Holtom adds there “is intense competition between suppliers for big-ticket deals in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America.”
he Eurofighter consortium (comprised of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), France, Russia, Sweden and the USA are competing for combat aircraft orders in these regions, with notable competitions in Brazil and India; while France, Germany, Italy and the UK are competing for orders for naval equipment from Algeria. The US remains the world’s largest exporter of military equipment, accounting for 30% of global arms exports in 2006–10. During this period, 44% of US deliveries went to Asia and Oceania, 28% to the Middle East and 19%. Russia (23%), Germany, France and the United Kingdom completed the “top 5”. The top five suppliers accounted for 75% of all exports of major conventional weapons in 2006–10, compared with 80% in 2001–2005. T
Mark Bromley, European expert of the programme, adds that “European producers in particular are seeking export opportunities and are benefiting from government assistance with export promotion activities.” This can be seen with government support for British, French, Italian and Swedish companies in the competition for billion dollar orders from Brazil for combat aircraft and warships, although newly elected Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff has delayed awarding contracts for these systems.
The states of the Middle East and North Africa have been regarded as potentially lucrative markets for arms exporters thanks to the resource revenue windfall of recent years. SIPRI ads interstate and internal tensions provide drivers for demand as well as give cause for concern. During 2006–10, arms imports were particularly high in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt and Algeria. Based on existing orders and known procurement plans, Saudi Arabian and Moroccan arms imports are expected to rise significantly in the coming years.
According to Pieter Wezeman of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme Libya “has served as an excellent illustration of the competition between major suppliers France, Italy, Russia and the UK for orders” in the period after the lifting of a United Nations arms embargo in 2003. “However, there are limits to what supplier states are willing to provide, as shown by the imposition of United Nations Security Council arms embargoes on the supply of most major weapons to Iran in June 2010 and for a broad range of military and paramilitary equipment to Libya in February 2011.”
Other notable developments in the report was that the average volume of worldwide arms transfers was 24% higher in 2006–10 than in 2001–2005. The major recipient region in 2006–10 remained Asia and Oceania (43% of all imports), followed by Europe (21%), the Middle East (17%), the Americas (12%) and Africa (7%).