India’s spending on imported weapons was behind a 24% growth in the global arms trade over the last five years, a Sweden-based think tank says.
Statistics published yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show demand from emerging economies – in particular India – drove the volume of worldwide arms transfers between 2007 and last year to a level 24% higher than in the previous four years.
India has gone on a major defence spending spree as it seeks to modernise its armed forces.
Alongside India, the five largest arms importers today are all Asian states, the data show, prompting fears of an arms race in a region still blighted by deep poverty.
China received 5% of the volume of international transfers of “major conventional weapons” from 2007 to last year, the report said. But the total was half that of India, and less than South Korea and Pakistan.
By some estimates,India will spend more than $149 billion on weapons and systems in the next 15 years.
Manoj Joshi, a security expert in Delhi, said India was trying to overcome decades of underinvestment: “There is a huge backlog and India is not so much racing as running as hard as she can to stay still.”
Brazil and South Africa are also stepping up weapons purchases, reflecting the emergence of middle-income powers on the global stage.Brazil’s orders of four Scorpene class submarines, a nuclear-powered submarine, and 50 transport helicopters would contribute to a “dramatic increase” in imports in the coming years, the report said.
“There is a status element there as well as an ability to project power over distance,” Dr Holtom said.
The US remains by far the world’s largest supplier of arms.