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South Asia and the Gulf lead rising trend in arms imports, Russian exports grow, says SIPRI

India’s arms imports are now almost 3 times as high as those of the second and third largest arms importers—China and Pakistan—according to new data on international arms transfers published today by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Overall, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons grew by 14 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13.

The volume of Indian imports of major weapons rose by 111 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13, and its share of the volume of international arms imports increased from 7 to 14 per cent. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s imports of major arms increased by 119 per cent. 

The major suppliers of arms to India in 2009–13 were Russia (accounting for 75 per cent of imports) and the United States (7 per cent), which for the first time became the second largest arms supplier to India. In contrast, the USA’s share of Pakistani imports in the same period was 27 per cent. China was also a major supplier in the region, accounting for 54 per cent of Pakistani arms imports and 82 per cent of Bangladeshi imports.

‘Chinese, Russian and US arms supplies to South Asia are driven by both economic and political considerations,’ said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘In particular, China and the USA appear to be using arms deliveries to Asia to strengthen their influence in the region.'

Russian arms deliveries remain high

The five largest suppliers of major weapons during the five-year period 2009–13 were the United States (29 per cent of global arms exports), Russia (27 per cent), Germany (7 per cent), China (6 per cent) and France (5 per cent). 

These top 5 suppliers accounted for 74 per cent of the total volume of arms exports worldwide. The USA and Russia together accounted for 56 per cent of the volume of arms exports. 

‘Russia has maintained high levels of arms exports despite the crisis in its arms industry in the post-cold war period,’ said Siemon Wezeman. ‘In 2009–13 Russia delivered major arms to 52 states. Russia’s most significant export in 2013 was of an aircraft carrier to India.’


Imports by Gulf states on the rise 

Arms imports to Arab states of the Gulf increased by 23 per cent from 2004–08 to 2009–2013, accounting for 52 per cent of imports to the Middle East in the latter period. Saudi Arabia rose to become the 5th largest importer of major weapons worldwide in 2009–13, compared to 18th in 2004–08. 

Several Gulf states have invested heavily in advanced, long-range strike systems and air and missile defence systems. This includes large orders for and deliveries of combat aircraft with precision-guided weapons from the United Kingdom and the USA. 

‘The USA, which accounted for 45 per cent of arms deliveries to Gulf states, has signed a series of major deals which will maintain its high levels of arms exports to these countries. In 2013, for the first time, the USA allowed the sale of long-range air launched cruise missiles to Gulf states,’ said Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. 

Other notable developments 

  • Brazil is increasing its arms imports. In 2009–13 it ordered 4 submarines from France and 2044 armoured vehicles from Italy, and decided to buy 36 combat aircraft from Sweden.
  • South Korea was the 8th largest arms importer in 2009–13, receiving and ordering combat aircraft, missiles, reconnaissance aircraft and air defence radars in order to increase its capability to detect and destroy North Korean missiles.
  • Australia increased its imports of major arms by 83 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13.
  • China has firmly established itself as a supplier of major arms in the same category as Germany and France, and has succeeded in convincing Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to select Chinese air defence systems.
  • Imports by Azerbaijan increased by 378 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13. 
  • Sudan and Uganda—both of which are involved in a number of conflicts—accounted for 17 and 16 per cent, respectively, of arms imports in sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • European arms imports decreased by 25 per cent between 2004–08 and 2009–13.
  • In the period 2009–13, 10 countries received a total of 16 submarines of which 8 were delivered by Germany. By the end of 2013, another 50 submarines were on order. 

For editors

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database contains information on all international transfers of major conventional weapons (including sales, gifts and production licences) to states, international organizations and armed non-state groups from 1950 to the most recent full calendar year. SIPRI data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals. As the volume of deliveries can fluctuate significantly year on year, SIPRI presents data for 5-year periods, giving a more stable measure of trends.