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India Becomes Biggest Buyer of American Arms:
The Roundtable Open Forum # 116






Already the world’s biggest arms buyer, India is now the biggest buyer of American weapons as well, importing $1.9 billion worth of hardware. The Financial Times reports:

“India overtook China to become the biggest arms importer in 2010, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which monitors the global arms trade.

Until now, however, most of India’s contracted arms purchases have been from Russia, partly because it has needed to replace or upgrade equipment bought from its former ally the Soviet Union.”

The deals with Russia also haven’t gone according to plan. India’s been complaining of delays in the delivery of an aircraft carrier and a joint project to build fighter jets. These issues may have added to India’s decision to look elsewhere.

With the United States drawing down its presence in Afghanistan, India is afraid that Pakistan -- and the host of militant groups it supports -- will gear up for another round of incursions in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

China, in the meantime, continues to make inroads into the Indian Ocean, an area India considers as its domain. China also maintains a significant presence along the border of India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing still claims. In the face of urgent geopolitical needs, India can’t tolerate delays in arms procurements.

So America’s becoming India’s top arms salesman probably doesn’t have anything to do with greater bonhomie.

In fact, a range of diplomatic difficulties, including an Indian diplomat’s arrest in New York, have made relations slightly awkward between the two.

Rather, the hunger for arms has more to do with India’s need for high quality weapons, fast.

In fact, Narendra Modi, widely expected to be India’s Prime Minister in the summer, will be looking to keep Chinese and American influence from becoming overpowering. With India becoming increasingly dependent on American arms, that might be a difficult trick to pull off.



Does the United Nations, whose mandate it is to promote peace and stability around the world, have anything to say about this?

Nations talk loudly about peace initiatives, while at the same time openly manufacturing far more arms than they will ever need for their defence, and then going about looking for and finding buyers -- anyone willing to part with their ill-gotten billions! -- for their products. Doesn't the need to sell arms at some point out-weigh and over-shadow the desire for peace?

We invite our readers to share their thoughts on this subject.


[Courtesy: The American Interest. Edited for]

February 28, 2014





Conversation about this article

1: Kaala (Punjab), February 28, 2014, 12:51 PM.

There are a couple of thoughts I want to share. 1) The billions being spent to buy these weapons are at the expense of the billion Indians who continue to live in abject misery. 2) These arms will not give India any strategic advantage over its foes. China and Pakistan co-operate with each other and synchronize their military capabilities vis-a-vis India and thus lower their defence costs. 3) Not to even think of competing with China, even Pakistan today has comparable military capabilities backed and supported by China and the Islamic world. Pakistan has a policy of maintaining parity with India but does that with much lower costs owing to its defence relationship with China. Who is India trying to beat with these arms purchases? Defeating China in a military conflict is out of the question, they will do well to remember what happened in 1962. That leaves us with Pakistan and in my opinion, notwithstanding what may have happened in the past, India will not be able to defeat even Pakistan. Meanwhile the teeming millions will continue to suffer.

2: Baljinder Kaur (New Delhi, India), February 28, 2014, 1:45 PM.

I trust you may have already heard of this week's sudden resignation by India's Naval Chief, which was precipitated by yet another "accident" involving an Indian submarine while in dock, killing a number of its senior officers. This sort of thing happens all the time, for absolutely no rational reason, simply because none of our armed forces equipment is maintained well, none of our armed forces personnel are trained well, etc. The billions spent on arms deals have nothing to do with acquisition of arms. They have everything to do with the concept that the more we spend on anything, the more the politicians get to siphon into their pockets. That's all that these arms purchases do. The sellers -- Americans, Russians, Brits, French, Israelis -- don't care. As long as their useless stuff gets purchased, and they get a sizable share of the dough.

3: Ujjagar Singh (United Kingdom), February 28, 2014, 2:12 PM.

Baljinder ji: you've hit the nail on the head. That's all that the coming elections are about: a bitter and desperate race to determine who gets to purchase arms (and other widgets) on behalf of India. Period. Look at the billions -- I'm not exaggerating; IT IS B-I-L-L-I-O-N-S! -- being spent on the elections by both of the two main gangs today. You don't think the money is being doled out from private stashes for the sheer joy of practicing democracy and furthering the electoral process, do you? Civic sense? Public service? Not even a trace of these concepts has been spotted on the subcontinent since the creation of that unfortunate country 67 years ago.

4: Bhupinder Singh (New Delhi, India ), March 01, 2014, 6:59 AM.

You might be surprised at a story I heard from one of the shawl dealers from Kashmir. While generally talking about the security situation, I said that officers of the military might be reluctant to take border postings. What he said completely blew me away. He said officers actually spend a lot of money (he specifically said, at least 5 million rupees) to get a border posting. That was a very lucrative post as they would get paid anything from 500,000 to 700,000 to let each infiltrator through. With such patriots, what do you expect?

5: Dr Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 04, 2014, 1:17 PM.

I'm cognizant of the "Military Industrial Complex" scenario - which we should all beware and become weary of - as hailed in American politics for decades now, and the ugliness / devastation of such a scenario as has been experienced by not only American citizens but people around the world. The likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Rumsfeld and certain corporations have gained immensely from the wars waged on false pretexts. I am somewhat skeptical that huge arms procurement(s) by a third world country whose majority population is impoverished and hungry, is simply being done to meet security requirements of the nation, when in fact, it is clear and obvious that this nation may not have the capabilities at anytime to meet outside military threats, especially from surrounding nation(s)who are many times more powerful and better equipped. [Remember 1962?] One must consider the element of abject corruption as the primary motivation and purpose behind the huge arms procurements by such poor and ill advised nations whereby certain politicians and Govt. and military personnel from these poor nations benefit immensely monetarily from such transactions made under the canopy of National Security.

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