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 FT 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 and strip-search 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.