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India’s outgunned Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s fourth-largest defence spender

By Manu Balachandran

India has broken into the world top-five defence spenders’ club.

Asia’s third-largest economy spent $50.6 billion in 2016, up from $46.6 billion last year. India now has the fourth-largest defence budget, followed by Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to the 2016 Jane’s Defence Budgets Report, released by research firm IHS Markit on Dec. 12. While Russia was at the fourth place last year, in 2016, it slipped to the sixth spot.

The US, China, and the UK remain the top three, IHS Jane’s data shows. The report says that by 2018 India will become the third-largest in the group, surpassing the UK.

“Procurement spending has been constrained in India over the last three years as personnel costs have increased,” Craig Caffrey, principal analyst, IHS Jane’s, said in a statement. “However, what we expect to see from 2017 onwards is a military focused on modernisation. India needs new equipment to fulfill its modernisation drive. Over the next three years, India will re-emerge as a key growth market for defence suppliers.”

In 2016, the total global defence spending increased to $1.57 trillion. Here are the 10 nations with the highest defence budgets for 2016:

Since coming to power in May 2014, the Narendra Modi government has laid tremendous stress on ramping up the country’s defence facilities. In 2014, India purchased some Rs36,900 crore ($5.57 billion) worth of arms, ammunition, and related goods from abroad. Earlier this year, India also signed a €7.8-billion (around Rs58,000 crore) deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Under Modi, the government has been looking at increasing the share of domestic manufacturing in defence goods. India spends some 1.8% of its GDP on defence. Of this, up to 36% is spent on capital acquisition.

The government had also raised foreign direct investment limit for the sector to 49%, helping Indian private players partner global heavyweights. India needs to spend some $130 billion to modernise its military over the next seven years.