India's economy may be smaller than its regional rival China's but its appetite for advanced weaponry isn't. For years to come India is set to be the world's #1 buyer of foreign weaponry, primarily state of the art hardware from Russia.
With defence spending for the coming year pegged at just under $33-billion, India remains light years behind the debt-ridden United States where military spending throughout its vast military/industrial/civilian-warfighting complex is estimated to exceed a trillion dollars annually.
India, which has its own, indigenous military/industrial sector capable of designing and producing advanced missiles and even nuclear powered submarines, builds a lot of Russian equipment, especially aircraft, under licence. The country is positioned to be Russia's main export customer for its new stealth fighter-interceptor.
China now appears to be locked into a major arms race with India. Fueling this are border disputes, particularly involving Himalayan headwaters; US/India containment threats; and Indian domination of the Indian Ocean, a major sea lane route for Chinese access to the Middle East. China employs Pakistan as a proxy to ramp up pressure on India and, in turn, threaten India's access to Middle East and Central Asian fossil fuel resources.
The estimates of India's arms appetite come from the Swedish International Peace Research Institute. SIPRI (www.sipri.org) has found that, while India accounts for 9% of all weapons imports, close behind are China and South Korea at 6% each followed by Pakistan at 5%.
The United States continues to dominate weapons exports followed by Russia with 23% of the global trade, Germany at 11% and France at 7%. Arms shipments from 2006 to 2010 were up 24% over the period 2001 to 2005.