03/15/2011, 00.00
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India largest importer of weapons in the world

With a volume of international transfers of 9%, the country is ahead of China, South Korea and Pakistan. 82% comes from Russia. But India’s overtaking in Beijing is linked to the new market for domestic production of arms in China.

Stockholm (AsiaNews / Agencies) - According to a report compiled by the Swedish Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published yesterday, India is the largest importer of weapons in the world. With 9% of the volume of international arms transfers between 2006 and 2010, of which 82% came from Russia, the country has overtaken China - with its 6% - for the first place. The two neighbours, are followed by South Korea, again with 6%, and Pakistan with 5%.

"The increase - Siemon Wezeman, a researcher at SIPRI told Bloomberg - is substantial. It is worrying that the weapons are concentrated in an not particularly stable area. Security threats inside the country and its rivalry with China and Pakistan, neighbours with which there are cyclical border disputes have led India to an increase its military spending. "

An Indian priest who spoke to AsiaNews, said: "This is the cancer of our society. Under the guise of security mafia, military groups and political elites are getting richer, while the poverty gap among the lower levels of the population widens. "

The defence budget for 2011-2012 in India was set at 1.5 trillion rupees (about  33 billion dollars), an increase of 40% over the past two years. The amount allocated, about 70% will be invested in arms. The plans include the purchase submarines, aircraft carriers, transport planes, as well as 126 combat aircraft and 200 helicopters.

However, India’s leap ahead is not only related to the phase of strong economic growth that it is experiencing. Wezeman specifies that "China now produces its own weapons, it is still early days for India." This, according to the researcher, explains China’s "retrocession". Then, there are the figures announced for the five-year economic plan 2011-2015. During the National People's Congress, spokesman, Li Zhaoxing, has revealed that the army's budget this year will increase by 12.7% (compared to only 7.5% in 2010), with an investment of 601 billion Yuan (about 6% of the central government budget).

To those who criticized the future investments as excessive, denouncing the presence of "hidden" military expenditures, Li responded by defining the spending instead as "appropriate, to ensure a balance between national defence and economic development." Specifying that the defence budget represents only 1 to 4% of GDP, against India, which announced it would spend more than 2% of its GDP on defence. Antony Wong Dong, president of the International Military Association  of Macao, called the reference made by Li to India’s military spending "remarkable". "The military tension between Beijing and New Delhi has increased since last year, after India multiplied the number of troops along the border with China, south of Tibet."

SIPRI is an institute based in Stockholm, founded in 1966, which conducts research on conflict, weapons, arms control and disarmament. As reported on its website, a large proportion of its funding comes from the Swedish government.

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