Explained: Why India’s arms imports have declined


India’s arms imports declined by 33 percent between 2011-15 and 2016-20, although it remains the second-largest importer after Saudi Arabia, latest data shows. The research comes when India is striving to reduce defence imports and focus on domestic manufacturing.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia’s exports to India fell by over 50 percent, but New Delhi’s imports from France witnessed a rise.

India’s top three arms suppliers were Russia (49 percent), France (18 percent) and Israel (13 percent). The US remains the largest arms exporter, increasing its global share from 32 percent to 37 percent.

Here’s a look at why India’s arms imports have declined:

How much does India export?

Firstly, lets look at India’s exports status. Although India is a big importer, it is taking measures to drive exports. Last year, it was announced that country was exporting over 40 defence equipment to nations like the US, Germany, Indonesia among others.

Since 2014, India’s defence exports have grown from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 17,000 crore in 2020. PM Modi has said that he is targeting to increase arms exports to Rs 35,000 crore over the next five years.

According to SIPRI, India joined the exporters’ list in 2016 and is ranked 24th on the list, contributing 0.2 percent of global exports.

Why has India’s arms imports declined?

According to SIPRI, India’s push to make it self-reliant in defence manufacturing has helped in lower imports. Reports suggest that the Ministry of Defence has signed 304 contracts since 2015, out of which 190 contracts have been awarded to Indian vendors. In Budget 2021, Finance Nirmala Sitharaman set a target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore turnover in manufacturing by 2025.

Moreover, the country’s complex procurement processes contributed to the steep decline in import of arms. The government is aiming to reduce dependence on Russia for weapons.

Does this benefit India?

The government is taking measures to step up manufacturing and invite foreign manufacturers to make in India. The biennial Defence Expo held in Lucknow in February 2020 saw participation from over 1,000 domestic and foreign companies. The subsequent increase in export share and decrease in import share indicates that the efforts to Make in India have been successful.

Retd Air Marshal Anil Chopra told Hindustan Times, “India’s defence industry is coming of age.”

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