by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th March 2010
The world’s most credible monitor of the annual US $30 billion international arms trade --- the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI --- reveals in its just-released report for 2009 that India is the world’s second-biggest arms buyer over the five-year period from 2005-2009, importing 7% of the world’s arms exports. Only China imported more weaponry, 9% of the world’s total.
Since the numbers of contracts signed by a country, or weaponry bought or sold by it, can fluctuate significantly from one year to another, a five-year average offers a more stable indicator of trends in the global arms bazaar.
But India seems likely to top next year’s five-year rolling average as China increasingly builds rather than buys weaponry. The SIPRI report clearly points to China’s decreasing dependence on weapons imports. For the five year period under review, China’s annual arms imports declined from $3.5 bn in 2005; $3.8 bn in 2006; $1.5 bn in 2007; $1.5 bn in 2008; to a mere $0.6 billion in 2009.
The SIPRI report notes: “With the exception of a handful of helicopters from France and Russia, no major conventional weapons were delivered to China in 2009, although transfers (including via licensed production) of engines for aircraft, ships and armoured vehicles from Russia, Germany, Ukraine, France and the UK continue.”
In contrast, India continues to import rather than build its defence equipment. From 2005-2009, India’s annual arms imports doubled from $1.04 bn in 2005; $1.25 bn in 2006; $2.2 bn in 2007; $1.8 bn in 2008 and $2.1 billion in 2009.
India’s major capital imports include 82 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and T-90 tanks from Russia, and an A-50/Phalcon Airborne Early Warning (AEW) system integrated by Israel.
The United States, currently India’s sixth-biggest arms supplier, seems likely to leapfrog to second position once New Delhi starts paying for a series of recent and ongoing acquisitions. The period under review does not reflect India’s purchase of C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft for $1.1 billion; or the $2 billion acquisition of P8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft. India has also submitted procurement requests to the US for ten C-17 Globemaster airlifters, worth an estimated $2.4 billion; and for 145 M777 ultralight howitzers worth about $647 million. Initial payments for all this equipment could start this year.
The SIPRI report also highlights how US military aid has sharply boosted Pakistan’s buying power in the international arms bazaar. Islamabad’s annual purchases grew dramatically from $0.33 bn in 2005; $0.26 bn in 2006; $0.6 bn in 2007; $0.9 bn in 2008; to $1.15 billion in 2009.
Pakistan’s recent purchases include two F-22 Jiangwei frigates and the first of up to 300 JF-17 Thunder fighters from China.
Amongst arms exporters, the US has dominated 2005-09, accounting for 30% of international weapons sales. Russia is next with 23% of the global market, followed by Germany (11%); France (8%); and the UK (4%). The big gainer in this group is Germany, which has doubled its share when compared to the preceding five-year period, i.e. 2000-2004. UK arms sales, in contrast, declined by 13% in the same period.
(all figures in millions of US dollars)
China’s arms suppliers 2005-2009: (Total imports: US $ 10892 million)
India’s arms suppliers 2005-2009 (Total imports: US $ 8398 million)
Pakistan’s arms suppliers 2005-2009: (Total imports: US $ 3292 million)
The world’s top five suppliers and recipients
United States : 30% of global market
[Key importers were South Korea (14%); Israel (11%); and UAE (11%)]
Russia : 23% of global market
[Key importers were China (35%); India (24%); and Algeria (11%)]
Germany : 11% of global market
[Key importers were Turkey (14%); Greece (13%); and South Africa (12%)]
France : 8% of global market
[Key importers were UAE (25%); Singapore (21%); and Greece (12%)]
United Kingdom 4
Key importers were United States (23%) India (15%) Saudi Arabia (10%)