The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. (Image: Twitter/@DefenceMinIndia)
India was reported to be second largest arms importer in 2016-20 after Saudi Arabia and above Egypt, Australia and China, according to a recent release by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Sweden based think tank. These top five countries account for 36 percent of all major arms imports.
India’s arms imports decreased by 33 percent between 2011-15 and 2016-20, with its share in global arms imports reported at 9.5 percent in 2016-20.
India’s major arms imports came from Russia, France, Israel and the USA. Russia’s share in India’s total arms imports fell from 70 percent in 2011-15 to 49 percent in 2016-20. While India’s arms imports from the USA were 46 percent lower than in the previous five-year period, the report states.
The overall fall is attributed to “complex and lengthy procurement processes, combined with its attempts to reduce its dependence on Russian arms by diversifying its network of arms suppliers.” However, the report also notes that India has placed several new orders with Russia in 2019-20 and the deliveries will probably increase arms imports going forward.
On the contrary, India’s arms imports from France rose by 709 percent while those from Israel increased by 82 percent. Combat aircraft and associated missiles accounted for more than 50 percent of Indian arms imports in 2016–20.
Towards being self-reliant
Over the recent years, New Delhi has emphasised on self-reliance or indigenous development of its defence equipment. “Make in India initiative in defence sector is implemented through various policy initiatives which promotes indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence items,” Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence, Shripad Naik said in a reply to the Rajya Sabha (Parliament’s upper house) on March 8, 2021.
In the last 3 years, of the 191 defence capital acquisition contracts, more than 60 percent or 118 contracts have been placed on Indian industry, the Minister informed the Parliament in another reply earlier in February. Also, 58 percent of the total expenditure on capital acquisition over the said period has been made on indigenous procurement.
Several significant projects such as 155mm Artillery Gun system ‘Dhanush’, Bridge Laying Tank, Thermal Imaging Sight Mark-II for T-72 tank, Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’, ‘Akash’ Surface to Air Missile system, Submarine ‘INS Kalvari’, ‘INS Chennai’, Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvette (ASWC), Arjun Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle, Landing craft utility, etc. have been produced under ‘Make in India’ initiative in last few years.
The SIPRI data also shows India among the 25 largest arms exporters placed at 24th position with its major recipients being Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.