Trends in Global Arms Transfer: Viewpoint from the Sub-continent

India Doubles Weapons Purchases 

Asma Khalid        21/3/2018

Over the past several years, India’s unprecedented military modernization goals have worsened the security environment of South Asia. India’s increasing defense spending and its quest for acquiring sophisticated weapon systems and technologies have threatened the regional peace and stability. India is directing a huge scale modernization of its military mainly in six key areas, i.e., land, air, sea, nuclear, outer-space and cyberspace with the aim to acquire the status of a global player through military means. Moreover, the US assistance has played a significant role in fulfilling India’s objective of military modernization. The positive trajectory of Indo-US nexus and growing Indo-US trade in defense sector has left the South Asian countries in a state of security consciousness.

According to the latest annual study by the global watchdog on arms sales, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the largest arms importer in the world, accounting for 12 percent of the global sales. According to 2018 report published by SIPRI, since the last five years, India is the world’s largest importer of major arms, and its imports have increased by at least 24 percent during the last five years. US, Russia, Israel, Europe, and South Korea are the major arms suppliers to India. India is trying to shift the focus of its bilateral relations with these states from the buyer-seller model to the transfer and co-production of technology, which will further boost the objective of “Make in India initiative.” The adopted “Make in India initiative” in its defense policy was introduced in the year 2014 with the primary aim of making India ‘a global manufacturing hub’ which in turn will encourage both the multinational and domestic companies to manufacture defense products within the country. Such integration would then be a major game changer for India. From the past decade, India has greatly worked on revamping and modernization of its military infrastructure. SIPRI 2018 Report demonstrates that India’s obsession with achieving technological development and seeking qualitative superiority is increasing day by day. If the parallel trends of record defense spending and growth in the domestic defense industrial base continue, India will quickly become a key player in the global defense market.

On the other hand, SIPRI Report of 2018 further states that Pakistan is the 9th largest arms importer in the world and 36 percent decrease in its arms imports has been witnessed during the last five years, despite the internal conflicts and cross-border tension with its historic rival India. In this regard, the question arises that despite major external and internal security threats why has there been a decrease in the import of weapons by Pakistan? According to the analysts, possible reasons for decreased arms imports are: first, the positive trajectory of Indo-US nexus and Islamabad’s deteriorating relationship with Washington; Second, Pakistan’s domestic financial constraints.

Therefore, the latest estimates of global arms imports present that India’s technological development and modernization in conventional and nuclear spheres can undermine the delicate conventional parity and deterrence equilibrium between India and Pakistan. Amidst all the looming actions, the recent upsurge in India’s defense budget by 7.81% percent appears quite dubious; as it has now reached up to $43.4 billion. Whereas, the increased convergence of interests between the United States and India specifically in the strategic sector makes the neighboring countries apprehensive of their growing defense procurements; this continuous trend of military modernization threatens to disturb the existing regional balance.

Proactive strategies, renewed defense settlements, and the conventional military build-up enable Pakistan to take countermeasures while balancing the strategic equilibrium at the same time; for Islamabad, it is right to track Indian defense spending closely, the reason being India remains regarding its military capabilities, the key threat to Pakistan’s security.

To conclude, India is by and by the world’s largest buyer of conventional weapons, with an upwards 100 billion dollars anticipated, that would be spent on modernizing defense forces following the coming decade. Consequently, India has developed military doctrine, sophisticated missile program, submarine fleet and military hardware. India is trying to destabilize the region and create an environment conducive to limited wage war. In this regard, it is imperative for Pakistan to maintain delicate conventional military balance without indulging in an arms race to ensure its security.

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