14 March 2011: India world's largest arms importer according to new SIPRI data on international arms transfers

(Stockholm, 14 March 2011) India is the world's largest arms importer according to new data on international arms transfers published today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The comprehensive annual update of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database is accessible from today at www.sipri.org.
Read the Swedish version here and the French version here.

India received 9 per cent of the volume of international arms transfers during 2006–10, with Russian deliveries accounting for 82 per cent of Indian arms imports.

‘Indian imports of major conventional weapons are driven by a range of factors. The most often cited relate to rivalries with Pakistan and China as well as internal security challenges’,states Siemon Wezeman of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘As an importer, India is demanding offsets and transfers of technology to boost its own arms industry, and, in order to secure orders, major suppliers are agreeing to such demands’.

Supplier competition
‘There is intense competition between suppliers for big-ticket deals in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America’, states Dr Paul Holtom, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. The Eurofighter consortium (comprised of Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), France, Russia, Sweden and the USA are competing for combat aircraft orders in these regions, with notable competitions in Brazil and India. France, Germany, Italy and the UK are competing for orders for naval equipment from Algeria.

Mark Bromley, European expert of the programme, adds that ‘European producers in particular are seeking export opportunities and are benefiting from government assistance with export promotion activities’. This can be seen with government support for British, French, Italian and Swedish companies in the competition for billion dollar orders from Brazil for combat aircraft and warships, although newly elected Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff has delayed awarding contracts for these systems.

Middle East and North Africa
The states of the Middle East and North Africa have been regarded as potentially lucrative markets for arms exporters thanks to the resource revenue windfall of recent years. Interstate and internal tensions provide drivers for demand as well as give cause for concern.

During 2006–10, arms imports were particularly high in the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Egypt and Algeria. Based on existing orders and known procurement plans, Saudi Arabian and Moroccan arms imports are expected to rise significantly in the coming years.

According to Pieter Wezeman of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme ‘Although Libya placed only limited orders for major conventional weapons following the lifting of the UN arms embargo in 2003, in recent years it has served as an excellent illustration of the competition between major suppliers France, Italy, Russia and the UK for orders’.

However, there are limits to what supplier states are willing to provide, as shown by the imposition of United Nations Security Council arms embargoes on the supply of most major weapons to Iran in June 2010 and for a broad range of military and paramilitary equipment to Libya in February 2011.

Other notable developments

  • The average volume of worldwide arms transfers in 2006–10 was 24 per cent higher than in 2001–2005.
  • The major recipient region in 2006–10 remained Asia and Oceania (43 per cent of all imports), followed by Europe (21 per cent), the Middle East (17 per cent), the Americas (12 per cent) and Africa (7 per cent).
  • The four largest importers of conventional weapons in 2006–10 are located in Asia: India (9 per cent of all imports), China (6 per cent), South Korea (6 per cent) and Pakistan (5 per cent). These states have imported, and will continue to take delivery of, a range of major conventional weapons, in particular combat aircraft and naval systems. 
  • The USA remains the world’s largest exporter of military equipment, accounting for 30 per cent of global arms exports in 2006–10. During this period, 44 per cent of US deliveries went to Asia and Oceania, 28 per cent to the Middle East and 19 per cent to Europe.


For editors

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme monitors, measures and analyses international transfers of major conventional weapons. The SIPRI arms transfers database is the most comprehensive publicly available source of information on international transfers of major conventional weapons that have taken place since 1950. It is a fully searchable online database and can be accessed at <http://www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers>. Download the fact sheet of the analysis at www.sipri.org.

This is the second of a series of three major data sets pre-launches, before SIPRI's Yearbook is published in June. SIPRI data on the arms industry were launched on 21 February. On 11 April, world military expenditure data (comprehensive information on global, regional and national trends in military spending) will be released. Finally, on 7 June, SIPRI will launch its 2011 Yearbook (cutting-edge information and analysis on the state of the world's nuclear forces, the international peacekeeping agenda and steps to control WMD as well as a feature on corruption in the international arms trade).


For information and interview requests contact Stephanie Blenckner (blenckner@sipri.org, +46 8 655 97 47) or Claire Fanchini (fanchini@sipri.org, +46 8 655 97 87)

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