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India crowned largest importer of arms; China inches towards largest exporter

March 19, 2012

Although China recently hiked her defence budget cruising beyond the US$100 billion mark, India has superseded China to reign as the world’s largest importer of arms. According to a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute or  (SIPRI) India was the world’s largest recipient of arms, accounting for 10 per cent of global arms imports. China received 5 percent of the volume of international transfers of “major conventional weapons” from 2007 to 2011, Sipri said in a report released today. The total was half that of India, which last year overtook China as the world’s largest recipient of arms, and less than South Korea and Pakistan. China was the world’s top weapons importer for much of the past decade.

India in her union Budget, last week said it will increase defense spending by 13 percent next year to Rs. 1.93 trillion (US$38.4 billion) as it seeks to counter China’s buildup.

While China and India have always shared a sweet and sour relationship due to an unresolved border dispute, the two countries keep a sharp eye out on each others defence expenditures. In the recent past although, China has been shifting its spending to research and development of arms and has begun to manufacture their own defence equipment domestically. While India continues to depend on Russian and European weapons, China has begun successful tests of  Made in China weapons for all army, navy and air divisions.

“In certain sectors such as combat aircraft, with the exception of certain parts like engines, China is able to put together these systems largely from their own indigenous base now,” Paul Holtom, director of Sipri’s arms transfer program, said by phone. “India is still struggling there.”

Meanwhile, following an arms embargo from the US and Europe since 1989, China is becoming a major arms exporter. Her international reach, treaties to protect land they are heavily trading with especially in Africa and the Middle East, has enabled the Middle Kingdom to nearly double her arms exports from 2007 to 2011. As China’s influence increases internationally, Beijing has inched up the ladder to become the sixth largest arms exporter, just after the UK. A point of contention with India, about two-thirds of China’s weapons were sold to neighboring Pakistan, including 50 JF-17 combat aircraft, 203 tanks and three warships.

The volume of worldwide arms transfers in 2007-2011 was 24 percent higher than in 2002-2006, the report said. The Asia- Pacific region led the world, accounting for 44 percent of arms imports. It was followed by Europe at 19 percent, the Middle East at 17 percent and the Americas at 11 percent.

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