India, Pakistan Among Biggest Defense Importers In Asia — Latest SIPRI Report

India and Pakistan were among the biggest arms importers in Asia and Oceania between 2016 and 2020, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The region accounted for a major chunk of the world’s arms trade with 42% of the sales during the period.

The report mentioned that apart from India and Pakistan, Australia, South Korea, and even China were the biggest importers in the region. Siemon T. Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, said the growing perception about rising Chinese aggression in the region could be a reason why some countries have increased their defense imports.

“For many states in Asia and Oceania, a growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver for arms imports. More large imports are planned, and several states in the region are also aiming to produce their own major arms,” he added.

China was the world’s fifth-largest weapons exporter in the period 2016-20. However, its exports declined by 7.8% between 2011-15 and 2016-2020.

The trend in international transfers of major arms, 1981–2020. (Courtesy: SIPRI)

With a total share of over 5% in total arms exports, China’s main customers were Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Algeria.

India is currently pursuing its ‘Make in India’ initiative, as part of which New Delhi would focus on the indigenous development of defense equipment to cut arms imports by a whopping 33%. The move is likely to impact Russia, the largest supplier of defense equipment to India.

The SIPRI report shows that the Russian arms exports dropped by 22%, although it accounted for 20% of all exports in 2016-2020. “The bulk—around 90 percent—of this decrease was attributable to a 53 percent fall in its arms exports to India,” it mentioned.

In addition, India’s defense imports from the US decreased by 46%. The drop in Indian arms imports seems to have been mainly due to its complex procurement processes, combined with an attempt to reduce its dependence on foreign arms.

Despite all this, the US remains the largest arms exporter, increasing its global share of arms exports from 32 to 37 percent between 2011–15 and 2016–20. The US supplied major arms to 96 countries in 2016–20, far more than any other supplier.

France also saw a substantial increase in arms exports, by 44 percent and accounted for 8.2 percent of global arms exports in 2016–20. India, Egypt, and Qatar together received 59 percent of French arms. India has purchased 36 Dassault Rafales from France during this period.