India kept its position as the world's leading arms importer, while the United States and Russia supplied more than half of global weaponry, a Swedish-based research institute said Monday in a new overview of arms transfers.

India's imports between 2011 and 2015 stood at 14 per cent of the world's total, twice as much as second-placed Saudi Arabia, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Australia rounded off the five largest arms importers.

In its overview of global arms transfers, SIPRI estimated that the volume of arms transfers increased worldwide in the 2011-2015 period by 14 per cent compared to 2006-2010.

The institute uses a five-year cycle to even out fluctuations caused by a big order during any specific year.

The arms transfers database does not include small arms and is based on public sources ranging from national and regional newspapers to specialized international journals, as well as government and industry reports.

A total of 58 countries export arms, led by the US and Russia, which together supplied more than half the world's arms between 2011 and 2015.

The US, with 33 per cent of global exports, sold arms to 96 countries, far more than any other major supplier, SIPRI said. Main US markets were Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey.

Combat aircraft accounted for more than half of the volume of US exports.

Russia accounted for one-fourth of global arms deliveries, shipping arms to 50 countries as well as rebel forces in Ukraine, the think tank said. Three countries – India, China and Vietnam - received more than half of Russia's exports.

India imported 70 per cent of its arms from Russia, and its reliance on Russian arms imports was expected to continue despite a recent increase in US imports.

India's imports were due to the failure of the South Asian country’s arms industry "to produce competitive indigenously designed weapons," SIPRI said.

China, on the other hand, has proved "increasingly capable of producing its own advanced weapons and has become less dependent on arms imports," SIPRI said.

China was the world's third-largest arms exporter, supplying almost 6 per cent of global exports, and exporting to 37 states. Its main markets were traditional allies Pakistan and Myanmar, as well as Bangladesh.

France was the world's fourth-largest arms exporter with a 5.6 per cent share, followed by Germany and Britain.

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