India’s choice of arms trade partners has changed significantly over time as the country strives to reduce dependence on old partners such as Russia. India spends around 2.3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence and accounts for 15 per cent of the global arms import. The Indian government had planned to spend USD 64.4 billion to equip and modernise the second largest armed forces in the world in the current financial year.
France, Russia, United States, South Korea and Israel were the largest suppliers of arms to India in 2020, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. However, new players such as South Korea, Brazil and South Africa have also emerged as important arms exporters for India in recent years. The below chart shows the change in India’s arms trade partners over the last 50 years.
SIPRI compares data on the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons using a common unit known as trend-indicator value (TIV). The TIV is based on the known unit production costs of a core set of weapons and is intended to represent the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer.
India is continuously trying to reduce its arms dependence on Russia. Overall, arms exports by Russia fell by 22 per cent, which is majorly due to India’s cut in arms imports. Arms imports by India fell by 33 per cent between 201115 and 201620.
Though Russia was the most affected supplier, India’s imports of US arms also fell by 46 per cent during the same period. Imports from France, on the other hand, have increased. India, Egypt and Qatar together received 59 per cent of French arms exports. Russia, US, Israel, France and UK were the highest arms exporters in the last 20 years.
Smaller countries such as Uzbekistan and South Korea have also been part of India’s arms procurement journey. Uzbekistan was one of the largest arms exporters to India for three years in a row since 2009, while South Korea has significantly increased its share of arms exports in India in the last three years.
Self-Reliance In Defence
India aims at cutting its import dependence and increase self-sustenance for weapons as the country is the second-largest importer of arms in the world. India has planned to spend USD 130 billion on military modernisation in the next five years. The government has also allowed private companies to participate in the defence industry to provide impetus to indigenous manufacturing.
Last week, junior defence minister Shripad Naik said in reply to a question in Lok Sabha, “28 successful tests have been carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the last one year.”
The major weapons and other systems that have been handed over to the armed forces by DRDO are Beyond Visual Range Missile System, 10-metre Short Span Bridging System, Indian Maritime Situational Awareness System (IMSAS), Heavy Weight Torpedo (HWT) Varunastra, Border Surveillance System (BOSS) and Arjun Mk-1A, Naik added.
Projects worth USD 7.3 billion are ongoing in India, according to Invest India. All systems designed and developed by DRDO are manufactured by Indian industries, which include both public and private sectors entities.
Some of the systems developed by such collaboration during the last one year are Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS), Extended Range Pinaka System & Guided Pinaka Rocket System, 10-metre Short Span Bridging System, Indian Maritime Situational Awareness System (IMSAS), Heavy Weight Torpedo (HWT) Varunastra, Border Surveillance System (BOSS), Arjun Mk-1A, etc.
DRDO has several foreign collaborations, such as the India-USA Joint Technology Group, Indo-Israel Management Council, India-Russia R&D Subgroup, India-Singapore defence technology steering committee, India-UK steering committee and India-Korea steering committee.
India exported defence equipment worth USD 780 million between March and December 2020. DRDO’s latest list of export equipment released on February 3, 2021, includes 19 aeronautical systems, 41 armament and combat systems, 4 missile systems, 27 electronic and communication system, 10 life protection items, 4 microelectronic devices, 28 naval systems, 16 Nuclear Biological Chemical equipment NBC and 7 other materials.
The government has formulated policies to boost defence exports and achieve a defence export target of USD 5 billion in the next five years. It has allowed 100 per cent FDI in the defence industry to expedite defence manufacturing infrastructure.