Report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute spotlights India’s floundering attempts to make firearms in India and growing preference of US over Russia as arms supplier.
India continues to be world’s largest importer for major firearms, an indication that Modi government’s Make In India drive for defence sector has faltered.
A report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has found that India was the “world’s largest importer of major arms in 2013–17 and accounted for 12 per cent of the global total”.
The report spotlights India’s floundering attempts to make firearms in India. India has managed to get just Rs 1.17 crore as FDI in the defecne sector under the “Make in India” framework.
“FDI of amount $0.18 million has been received in the defence industry sector from April 2014 to December 2017,” said junior defence minister Subhash Bhamre, in a written reply to Lok Sabha recently.
India’s imports increased by 24% between 2008–12 and 2013–17, according to the report and majority of the firearms were sourced from India’s long-time supplier Russia, which accounted for 62 per cent of India’s arms imports in 2013–17.
"Asian and Indian arms procurement in particular are a reflection of the growing security competition in Asia," Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan , a senior fellow at ORF, told Outlook.
"China's military power and its aggressive posturing and the unresolved border and territorial and sovereignty disputes in Asia add to to the concerns of Asian countries. Two, in the case of India, procurement has been delayed by a decade and it will happen in a go possibly and therefore one might see a spike in the arms procurement. Three, there are life cycle-driven modernisation and procurement are also adding to the Indian and Asian increase in arms procurement."
The present NDA government had done cut red tape and opened up FDI further wide to boost defence manufacture in India but with little effect.
“The Modi government had revised the policy to allow FDI up to 49% under the “automatic route”, and above 49% through the “government route” with the Cabinet Committee of Security’s approval on a case-to-case basis if it was likely to result in access to modern cutting-edge technology,” reported The Times of India.
Last year, the government even scrapped the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) that scrutinized foreign investment proposals in its desperate attempt to cut red tape and facilitate ease of doing business.
The SIPRI report has also brought to light India’s shifting preference for the US, who is the leader in arms exports worldwide, holding a share of 34%.
“India’s arms imports from the USA rose by 557 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17, making it India’s second largest arms supplier,” said the report.
‘The tensions between India, on the one side, and Pakistan and China, on the other, are fuelling India’s growing demand for major weapons, which it remains unable to produce itself,’ said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
‘China, by contrast, is becoming increasingly capable of producing its own weapons and continues to strengthen its relations with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar through arms supplies.’
Surprisingly, India’s long-time foe has slashed its imports despite its tensions with India and internal conflicts.
“Pakistan’s arms imports decreased by 36 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17. Pakistan accounted for 2.8 per cent of global arms imports in 2013–17. Its arms imports from the USA dropped by 76 per cent in 2013–17 compared with 2008–12.”
SIPRI data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals.
But who is the second largest importer of weapons after India?
The not-so-surprise candidates are the counties in the middle east, which is beset with widespread violent conflicts
According to the report, in 2013–17 Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer, with arms imports increasing by 225 per cent compared with 2008–12. Egypt stood at third, UAE at the fourth
Arms imports by Egypt—the third largest importer in 2013–17—grew by 215 per cent between 2008–12 and 2013–17. The United Arab Emirates was the fourth largest importer in 2013–17, while Qatar (the 20th largest arms importer) increased its arms imports and signed several major deals in that period.