Skip to content

World’s top arms importers: India still No. 1 despite decline in supply

While India retains its top spot in the world's largest arms import, the U.S. and Russia are dominating the global arms exports, with France inching close to the second spot.

The 13th edition of India-Singapore military exercise carried out in Jodhpur, Rajastan, in March, 2023. Image - Twitter @adgpi

India continues to remain the largest importer of weapons and military equipment in the world despite facing an import decline of 11 per cent between 2013-17 and 2018-22.

The latest figures were published in a report released by the Sweden-based think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March 13, 2023.

Titled “Trends in International Arms Transfers 2022” – the report assessed imports of countries for a five-year period (2018-2022).

“India was the world’s biggest importer of major arms in 2018-22, a position it has held for the period 1993-2022. It retained this position even though its arms imports dropped by 11 per cent between 2013-17 and 2018-22,” the SIPRI report read, adding “India’s tensions with Pakistan and China largely drive its demand for arms imports.”

Writing about India’s import decline, the report reasoned that it was “linked to a complex procurement process, efforts to diversify arms suppliers and attempts to replace imports with local designs.”

The U.S. and Russia continue to dominate global arms exports for the past three decades. Russia remains the largest supplier of major arms to India with about 45 per cent of all Indian imports, followed by France, which provided 29 per cent of imports. The U.S. supplied 11 per cent of equipment, with little fractions from Israel, South Korea and South Africa as well, SIPRI has noted.

However, “Russian arms exports decreased to 8 of its 10 biggest recipients between 2013–17 and 2018–22. Exports to India, the largest recipient of Russian arms, fell by 37 per cent, while exports to the other 7 decreased by an average of 59 per cent. However, Russian arms exports increased to China (+39 per cent) and Egypt (+44 per cent), and they became Russia’s second and third largest recipients,” according to SIPRI.

Siemon T. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program, said: “It is likely that the invasion of Ukraine will further limit Russia’s arms exports. This is because Russia will prioritize supplying its armed forces and demand from other states will remain low due to trade sanctions on Russia and increasing pressure from the USA and its allies not to buy Russian arms.”