Nearly half of all U.S. arms exports over the past five years have gone to countries in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia in particular splurging on a host of sophisticated western weapon systems. With most stated embroiled in conflict between 2013 and 2016, the region saw its arms imports double over the past 10 years and it accounted for 32 percent of all global arms imports from 2013 to 2017. Even though Saudi Arabia spent the most on importing military equipment in 2017, the long-term picture looks quite different. In fact, India actually spent the most on arms imports over the past five years according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).
India's arms imports went up 24 percent between 2008-12 and 2013-17. Its spending has been fueled by tensions with Pakistan on one side and China on the other. Even though India does have a domestic arms industry which has produced the Tejas fighter jet and Dhruv helicopter, it has lagged behind both China and Russia in the development of capable weapon systems. Between 2013-17, 62 percent of India's arms imports came from Russia. The U.S. has also become a major Indian arms supplier in recent years with contracts signed for the supply of Boeing P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft, C-17 transport aircraft and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.
Sipri uses "trend-indicator values" (TIV) in its database and these are based on the known unit production costs of weapons, representing the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer. Based on that methodology, India's reliance on importing weapons instead of manufacturing them domestically is nothing new. Since 1950, the value of Indian arms imports is far ahead of all other countries, dwarfing that of Saudi Arabia.
This chart shows the value of arms imports by country from 1950 to 2017 (in billion TIV).
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