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Indian arms imports almost triple China, Pakistan: study

Indian Army tanks take part in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2014
Indian Army tanks take part in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2014

India remains the biggest buyer of arms in the world, importing nearly three times as many weapons as its nearest competitors China and Pakistan over the last five years, a Swedish think tank said.

The total volume of arms sales was up 14 percent in 2009-13 compared to the previous five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Indian imports of major weapons rose by 111 percent in the last five years compared to 2004–08. Its share of total global arms imports increased from 7 to 14 percent, SIPRI said.

World arms trade
Graphic on the world's biggest arms buyers and suppliers

India replaced China as the world's biggest arms buyer in 2010. With its domestic defence industry struggling to manufacture high-tech arms, India is in the midst of a defence spending binge as it struggles to keep up with better-equipped Chinese forces and a range of military challenges in its volatile neighbourhood.

The main supplier of arms to India in 2009-13 was Russia, accounting for 75 percent of all imports -- reflecting India's need to upgrade and modernise weapons systems dating back to their close relationship during the Cold War.

India has lately sought to diversify its sources, looking particularly to the United States.

Figures from IHS Jane's released in February showed that India became the biggest buyer of US weapons last year -- with total imports worth $1.9 billion, and a string of large-scale purchases including Boeing's C-17A transport aircraft and P-8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

In 2009-13, however, the US still accounted for only 7 percent of India's purchases according to SIPRI.

India's traditional rival Pakistan increased its weapons acquisitions by 119 percent, growing from 2 percent of the global total to 5 percent during that period.

The five largest arms suppliers worldwide between 2009 and 2013 were the United States (29 percent of global exports), Russia (27 percent), Germany (7 percent), China (6 percent) and France (5 percent).

They collectively accounted for 74 percent of total arms exports, SIPRI said.

Pakistani soldiers patrol in Karachi on December 23, 2013
Pakistani soldiers patrol in Karachi on December 23, 2013

The world's top five arms importers were now India, China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

"Chinese, Russian and US arms supplies to South Asia are driven by both economic and political considerations," said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.

"In particular, China and the USA appear to be using arms deliveries to Asia to strengthen their influence in the region," Wezeman said.

Arms exports to Africa between 2004-08 and 2009-13 jumped 53 percent. The three largest importers in the region were Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.

Imports by European nations decreased by 25 percent between 2004–2008 and 2009–13.

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers take part in a drill at a military base in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province, July 26, 2011
Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers take part in a drill at a military base in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province, July 26, 2011

Britain was the largest importer of major weapons in Europe (receiving 12 percent of deliveries), followed by Azerbaijan (12 percent) and Greece (11 percent).

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