India was the world’s second-largest importer of weapons between 2014 and 2018, behind Saudi Arabia, which accounted for 12% of arms imported during that period, shows a study conducted by a Sweden-based think tank. India, with a share of 9.5%, until now had been the largest importer of weapons for more than a decade.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which measures weapons imports over five-year periods, released its latest report on Monday. Indian arms imports decreased by 24% between 2009-’13 and 2014-’18, partly due to delays in deliveries of arms produced under licence from foreign suppliers, such as combat aircraft ordered from Russia in 2001 and submarines ordered from France in 2008, it said.

The top five arms importers – Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt (5.1%), Australia (4.6%) and Algeria (4.4%) – accounted for 35% of the total arms imports during this period. Other nations importing the most weapons are China (4.2%), the United Arab Emirates (3.7%), Iraq (3.7%), South Korea (3.1%) and Vietnam (2.9%).

“India has ordered a large number of major arms from foreign suppliers; however, deliveries are severely delayed in many cases,” said SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme senior researcher Siemon T Wezeman. “In contrast, Chinese arms imports decreased because China has been more successful in designing and producing its own modern weaponry.”

Pakistan is the 11th largest importer of weapons, with a share of 2.7%. Its biggest source was China, from which Pakistan acquired 70% of its arms. However, Pakistan’s arms imports decreased by 39% between 2009-’13 and 2014-’18. “The USA has become increasingly reluctant to provide military aid or sell arms to Pakistan: US arms exports to Pakistan fell by 81% between 2009-’13 and 2014-’18,” said the report, adding that Pakistan has turned to other suppliers such as Turkey.

Russia’s arms exports to India fell 42% between 2009-’13 and 2014-’18, said the report. Russia, the country’s top arms supplier, accounted for 58% of India’s arms imports during the last five years, compared to 76% in the previous five-year period. Russia accounted for 70% of Chinese arms imports in 2014-’18.

US tops exports list

Globally, the volume of international transfers of major arms in 2014-’18 was 7.8% higher than in 2009-’13 and 23% higher than in 2004-’2008, said the report. The five largest exporters in 2014-’18 were the US, Russia, France, Germany and China. Together, they accounted for 75% of the total volume of arms exports.

“The flow of arms increased to the Middle East between 2009-’13 and 2014-’18, while there was a decrease in flows to all other regions,” said the report, adding that 52% of US arms exports went to the Middle East in 2014-’18.