Russia remains India’s main source of weapons even as the nation has drastically trimmed purchases, highlighting the challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi of recalibrating New Delhi’s dependence on Moscow, while its borders with both China and Pakistan remain tense.
Russian weapon imports dropped by 19% for the five year period starting 2018 compared to a similar time frame earlier, according to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent think tank which studies conflict, weapon sales and disarmament.
“Russia was the largest supplier of arms to India in both 2013–17 and 2018–22, but its share of total Indian arms imports fell from 64% to 45%,” according to the latest report released on Monday.
India’s dependence on Moscow for weapons is one of the factors behind New Delhi’s neutral stance on Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, despite pressure from countries such as the US, Japan and Australia. The South Asian nation has supported calls for a ceasefire and a diplomatic solution to end Russia’s war, but has abstained at the United Nations on votes condemning Russia’s invasion. It has also continued its purchases of cheap Russian oil.
India has been the world’s largest arms importer since 1993 and “tensions with Pakistan and China largely drive its demand for arms imports,” the report added.
Sanctions on Russia, affecting weapons exports, increased defense equipment manufacturing in India, and increased competition from countries like France — that has seen its arms exports to New Delhi jump a whopping 489% over the same period — leading to the drop in purchases from Moscow, the SIPRI report added.
Paris has edged out the US to become the second-largest weapons supplier to India in 2018-22.