India is world’s second largest arms importer; Saudi Arabia tops the list: SIPRI Report

After maintaining its position of world’s largest arms importer for about 8 years, India dropped down to be the second largest importer of weapons during 2014-18. Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest weapons importer.

Mar 12, 2019 13:46 IST
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India is the second largest importer of weapons in the world, as per the annual report ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers-2018’released on March 11, 2019 by the think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Saudi Arabia displaces India as world’s largest importer of weapons

After maintaining its position of world’s largest arms importer for about 8 years, India dropped down to be the second largest importer of weapons during 2014-18. Saudi Arabia is now the world’s largest weapons importer.

India accounted for 9.5 percent of the global total imports during 2014-18, while Saudi Arabia accounted for 12 percent of the total imports during the period.

Key highlights of report

The volume of international transfers of major arms across the world in 2014-18 was 7.8 percent higher than in 2009-13; and 23 percent higher than in 2004-2008.

The five largest exporters in 2014-18 were the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China, together accounting for 75 percent of the total volume of arms exports in 2014-18.

The US and Russia remain the largest exporters by far, accounting for 36 percent and 21 percent of the total global trade, respectively.

Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17 percent between 2009–13 and 2014–18, in particular due to the reduction in arms imports by India and Venezuela.

The flow of arms increased in the Middle East increased by 87 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18.

Arms imports by Egypt, the third largest arms importer in 2014–18, tripled by 206 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. However, Syria’s arms imports fell by 87 percent.

Asia and Oceania remains the largest importer region. The top five arms importers in the Asia and Oceania region were India, Australia, China, South Korea and Vietnam.

The combined arms exports of European Union states accounted for 27 percent of global arms exports in 2014-18.

China emerged as a major arms exporter with increase in its share by 2.7 percent for 2014-18 compared to 2009-13. Its biggest customers are Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Israeli, South Korean and Turkish arms exports increased substantially by 60 percent, 94 percent and 170 percent, respectively, between 2009-13 and 2014-18.

Algeria accounted for 56 percent of African imports of major arms in 2014-18.

British arms exports increased by 5.9 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18. In 2014-18, a total of 59 percent of British arms exports went to the Middle East.

Indian arms imports in 2014–18

  • Indian imports decreased by 24 percent between 2009-13 and 2014-18, partly due to delay in delivery of arms from foreign suppliers.
  • Russia accounted for 58 percent of Indian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 76 percent in 2009-13.
  • The United States, Israel and France increased their arms exports to India in 2014-18.

Future expectations

India is expected to receive 36 Rafale fighters of Rs 59,000 crore from France.

The Russian share in Indian arms imports is likely to go up in the next five-year period as India signed several procurement deals recently. These include S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, and a second nuclear attack submarine on lease.

India also signed deals with Russia for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems.

Arms imports decreased in India and Pakistan

Despite the never-ending conflict between India and Pakistan, considering the URI attack of 2017 and the recent Pulwama terror attack, the import of arms decreased for both countries in 2014-18, compared with 2009-13 period.

Pakistan was the 11th largest importer of arms, accounting for 2.7 percent of all global imports in 2014-18. Its sources were China, the US and Russia.


SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.

Established in 1966, it provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and public.

The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database contains information on all international transfers of major weapons (including sales, gifts and production licences) to states, international organizations and armed non-state groups.

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.

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