The evolving landscape of India’s arms trade – Observer Research Foundation

India should find ways of becoming self-reliant that would not adversely affect relations with its partner countries.

The recently released Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2020, a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), sheds light on the state of defence sales and procurement around the world. Looking at the five-year period of 2016-2020, it establishes patterns of defence trade by recording imports and exports of major weapons systems between countries. Incidentally, the report can also act as a means to gauge the strength, and emergence, of bilateral security relations.

Among many interesting trends that the report highlights, those on the changing landscape of India’s defence procurement and manufacturing are noteworthy. Data presented in the report provides us with a clearer picture as to where New Delhi stands in its quest to become atmanirbhar (self-reliant) in defence production, the progress it has made so far, and its continued — albeit reduced — reliance on imported weaponry. Here is an in-depth look at these aspects, and other takeaways from the report.

The importers

India emerged as the second-largest importer of arms transferred between 2016-20, with a share of 9.5% of global arms imports. Even so, its imports fell 33% from that between 2011-2015. The SIPRI report has attributed this decline to the country’s complex procurement procedures and efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian weapons. Correspondingly, Russia has been the worst hit by India’s decreased share,