Throughout many years, India’s arms imports presented an upward tendency, slowly shifting this country up on the list of main global importers of armament. Nevertheless, latest data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), could be considered by many as quite surprising.
According to SIPRI’s report, New Delhi’s share in the global arms imports throughout 2009-2013 has elevated it to the position of No. 1 (14%) on that list, visibly outpacing its main regional rivals, PRC and Pakistan, which both contributed more less by 5%.
– India’s share in global arms imports confirms its commitment to modernizing its armed forces and boosting defence potential. This can be described by experiences of Bharatiya Nau Sena (Indian Navy) and Bharatiya Vayu Sena (Indian Air Force). Both branches have been conducting ambitious and long lasting military buildup programs, which consider developing and buying many new types of arms, for example: Talwar-class missile frigates or Su-30MKI fighters, both designed and manufactured in Russia,
– This Russian example of arms acquisition is of course purposeful, since Russia’s share in India’s arms imports constitute 75% (and India is on the other hand the biggest client of Russian arms industry, with 38% share in the gross amount of orders),
– Furthermore, the fact that first three positions on the list of major arms importers are occupied by Asian states, reflects geopolitical transition of this region and generates concerns over the possible results of this arms race within Asia,
– In terms of India’s military buildup, the fact that this country is the main global arms importer actually is not a reason to be proud of. As a matter of fact, it is an undeniable confirmation of Indian arms industry weakness and lack of ability to develop modern up to date military technologies, which could find application on the battlefield and pose a real threat to the enemies in the hands of Indian soldiers. In this matter, PRC’s 5% share in global arms imports reflects quite the contrary,
– Underdevelopment of Indian military companies (in comparison to Western or Russian ones) and thus high level of dependence on imports of arms are very well reflected by current problems of BNS and BVS. Both branches suffer from repetitive technical glitches of armament, leading to growing number of accidents, which cost lives and health of Indian soldiers and undermine their efforts to develop strong and trustworthy armed forces, able to defend India’s strategic interests,
– For example, in last three to four years, BVS has lost no less than 40 jets, mostly as the result of technical glitches. BNS, on the other hand has a very shameful statistic of non-combat loses of its ships. Since its forming in 1947, it has lost (sunk or damaged beyond possible/cost-effective repair) 6 ships, of which only one due to enemy activity,
– It should also be noted that India’s high dependency on arms imports, paradoxically makes it harder for it to successfully implement many modernization plans, hence its armed forces military buildup program shows a very worrying downward tempo. For example, to this day India wasn’t able to accomplish procurement of new VIP or reconnaissance and observation (RSH) helicopters, 155-mm light towed howitzers M777, as well as Rafale multirole jets
– This high level of dependence on arms imports reflects big interest given by foreign arm companies in making bids in many Indian tenders. This lengthens the time needed to review all the offers, as well as makes it harder to choose the terminal bidder. Furthermore, let’s not forget about high level of corruption and bureaucracy within Indian MOD, which also influence whole military buildup process.