Saudi Arabia has now become the largest importer of arms in the world, having pushed India to the second spot, according to the premier Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

In its report on ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers 2018’ released on Monday, the institute identified Saudi Arabia, India, Egypt, Australia and Algeria as the five top arms importing countries and the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China as the five top arms exporting nations.

For more than the last eight years, India was the largest arms importer in the international market. It has been among the top five arms importing countries for decades, thanks to the strategic threat it faces from Pakistan and China.

The report said the volume of international transfers of major arms in 2014–18 was 7.8 per cent higher than in 2009–13 and 23 per cent higher than in 2004–2008.

The US, Russia, France, Germany and China together accounted for 75 per cent of the total volume of arms exports in 2014–18. The flow of arms increased to the Middle East between 2009–13 and 2014–18, while there was a decrease in flows to all other regions, the report said.

Arms exports by Russia decreased by 17 per cent between 2009–13 and 2014–18, in particular, due to the reduction in imports by India and Venezuela. Between 2009–13 and 2014–18, France increased its arms exports by 43 per cent and Germany by 13 per cent. The combined arms exports of European Union member states accounted for 27 per cent of global arms exports in 2014–18.

Indian arms imports decreased by 24 per cent between 2009–13 and 2014–18. Russia accounted for 58 per cent of India’s arms imports in 2014–18. Chinese arms imports decreased, but it was still the world’s sixth largest arms importer in 2014–18.

“India has ordered a large number of major arms from foreign suppliers; however, deliveries are severely delayed in many cases,” says Siemon T Wezeman, Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. In contrast, Chinese arms imports decreased because China has been more successful in designing and producing its own modern weaponry.

China delivered major arms to 53 countries in 2014–18, compared with 41 in 2009–13 and 32 in 2004–2008. Pakistan was the main recipient (37 per cent) in 2014–18, as it has been for all five-year periods since 1991.