Indian arms imports grow by 111 percent: SIPRI

New Delhi, March 17: India has become the world’s largest arms importer over 2004-13 with Russia winning 75 percent of the orders to replace the Indian armed forces’ old, Soviet vintage weapons, SIPRI said Monday, adding the country’s purchases had increased by 111 percent.

In a report on world arms transfers, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said that South Asia, including both India and Pakistan, and the Arab Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have shown a rising trend in arms imports.

During the nine-year period, specifically 2004-8 and 2009-13, India’s arms imports grew by 111 percent, and that of Pakistan by 119 percent over their respective pre-2004 figures.

SIPRI pointed out that “its 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.”

It has to be kept in mind that although India has acquired substantial number of weapons, these do not indicate any aggressive buildup as most of what is being bought is to replace its 30-40-year-old inventory. There are, in fact, several important deals pending either due to procedural delays or allegations of corruption, necessitating inquiries.

Indian ministry of defence (MoD) sources told India Strategic(www.indiastrategic.in) defence magazine that the SIPRI report is “interesting, not surprising,” adding that several major systems had been ordered in the recent years for all the three Services.

“There are delays, yes, largely due to correct or unfounded allegations, and also due to procedural issues both within the armed forces and the MoD, but there has been progress forward,” the sources said.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), for instance, has selected several systems from combat aircraft (Rafale MMRCA) to midair refuelers (Airbus A 330 MRTT), Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift transport aircraft, Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Special Operations aircraft, Russian Mi 17 V5 helicopters, 272 SU-30 MKI combat aircraft and so on.

Agreements have also been reached with Russia for co-production of Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) and the Fifth Generation Multirole Perspective Aircraft (initially called Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) besides acquistion of a large number of tanks and armour.

US supplies to India are being put at seven percent, but it has now become India’s second-largest supplier, replacing Israel, which has had a major share due to the three Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control Systems) aircraft, or eyes in the sky.

Some deals for Boeing’s C-47 Chinook and AH 64D Apache helicopters, and BAE Systems lightweight M777 howitzers are still pending but should be finalised soon after the elections, sources said.

It would not be correct for an outgoing government to conclude deals, particularly as they invariably draw allegations at least from some vested interests. Appropriately, the Government has sought time till July 2014 or so from various suppliers, sources told IndiaStrategic.

The Indian Navy’s Scorpene submarine deal was closed although a decision should be imminent in the near future for the next generation of modern submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) which enable them stay underwater for longer. Similarly, deals for other assets, particularly helicopters for the navy, army and IAF should be on the list for closure within this year.

As for the MMRCA, sources said that there was no delay from the ministry of defence.

The state-run HAL is still to conclude its work share details with Dassault International, and details of the agreement between them are not likely to be worked out before 2014-end. After that, once the MoD and the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approve it, the first installment of 15 percent would be due. That could happen in early 2015 – in the current fiscal ending March 2015 or next – and only then the first required financial allocation of 15 per cent would have to be made. “The main payments would be due in the 2015-16 fiscal.”

HAL is the main integrator for the MMRCA project and the company is reportedly looking for more work share than the stipulated 50 percent. The remaining parts would be made in the private sector under Transfer of Technology or in joint ventures by the French consortium that includes Dassault, Safran and Thales.

Dassault will supply the initial lot of 18 aircraft and the rest would be progressively assembled/made by HAL from kits and indigenous manufacture.

As for Pakistan, SIPRI observed that China had become its main supplier, accounting for 54 percent of imports while the US was now responsible for 27 percent of its weapon supplies. China, which has become a major player in the international arms market, also supplied Bangladesh 82 percent of its requirements.

As for the Gulf states, SIPRI said that arms being imported by them mainly from the US and other western nations have a much higher level of sophistication, with Washington and London selling “advanced, long-range strike systems” and “precision-guided weapons”.

“The USA, which accounted for 45 percent 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 stat”s,” SI’RI’s Senior Researcher on Arms Transfers Programme Pieter Wezeman was quoted as saying.

IANS