Arms exports: India

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2016-17: 5% growth

India is among the fastest growing arms exporters: The Times of India

New role: India, traditionally, has been an arms buyer — largely from Russia, and increasingly from the US, Israel and France. In fact, India accounted for 12% of the world’s arms imports between 2013 and 2017. But did you know India is the fourth fastest growing arms exporter, as well?

The data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says India’s arms sales grew by over 5% in 2016-17, a growth rate that is faster than the US’ (under 2%) and lower than only France, Germany and Russia — all three around 10%. Caveat: The think tank doesn’t track Chinese arms export.

Missile diplomacy: Though India’s arms export is dwarfed by that of the US, Russia and other Western nations in absolute terms, the growth rate highlights India’s changing relationship with the global weapons market and a more assertive foreign policy. This summer, India held talks with Vietnam to export its surface-to-air Akash missile and the supersonic Brahmos missiles. In 2016, India had offered Vietnam a $500 m defence loan during PM Modi’s visit.

Curated: India’s sale of arms and defence equipment, however, is more a geopolitical strategy than business. Consider some of the buyers besides Vietnam: Maldives (maritime security and surveillance equipment), Seychelles (HAL-made Dornier aircraft and a $100 million line of credit), Afghanistan (Mi-24 attack helicopter). These nations are of strategic value to India either by locating close to Pakistan (as in the case of Afghanistan) or on or nearby the Indian Ocean, where China has been increasing its presence.

Dragon fire: The potential sale of weapons to Vietnam perhaps represent the more ambitious nature of India’s defence as the Communist-ruled nation is located on the South China Sea, which China claims in entirety, threatening not just Vietnam but the Philippines and Japan as well. Yet the truth is India’s defence sale is no threat to China’s — Beijing’s weapons exports are worth nearly 25-times that of India’s.

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