- India ban on $47 billion arms imports sows uncertainty
- Comparable policy declarations to stem imports were made by the country back in 2013
- Despite having drawbacks, the nascent defence industry of the country is cautiously optimistic about the new policy
India has moved to ban the imports of certain weapon systems which, however, would do little to boost the local manufacturing and is spreading a row of uncertainty at a time when the South Asian country has been trying to ramp up its defence on its borders with countries like Pakistan and China, say some analysts.
The administration ran by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier this month, announced a curb on $ 47 billion worth of imports of military equipment including communication satellites, conventional submarines and light machine guns. Having said this, the defence experts say that the country did not address the critical issues including the certification of the systems and locally-made components, and also this curb will not prevent the military from making emergency purchases of equipment from foreign vendors.
A report published by one of the leading news agency in India said, “Modi has struggled to transform the world’s second biggest arms importer into a defence manufacturing powerhouse since a 2014 proposal to produce indigenous equipment and systems worth $100 billion by 2020.”
It added that “The target has since been slashed in half and the deadline extended to 2027, while the need for more advanced weaponry grows more urgent following the most deadly border clash with China in four decades.”
Amit Cowsish, who is a consultant with the New Delhi-based Manohar Parrikar Institute For Defence Studies and Analyses and a former financial adviser on acquisitions in the Ministry of Defense said that the ban on the imports by the ministry will have a little impact beyond “measures already taken to localize defence production and reduce import dependency,”.
While India is the 3rd biggest spender on the military in the world, the air force, navy and the army are still equipped with weapons that are mostly obsolete.
In the statement dated 9th of August, the Ministry of Defence said that the push for locally produced systems and hardware is a big leap towards the self reliance defence and will create an opportunity for the Indian defence industry to build the equipment with their in-house design and development infrastructure.
Comparable policy declarations to stem imports were made by the South Asian nation back in 2013, under then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and also by Modi’s administration in his first term in 2018, didn’t significantly increase the ‘Made in India’ products deployed by the military.
Rahul Bedi who is a New Delhi based independent defence analyst said that “Time and access to technology is fundamental to such efforts – currently a large proportion India’s defence industry is little better than system integrators,”
He added, “A major dose of realism is needed.”
Bedi added that the banned list does not make it clear on the position of the Joint Ventures (JVs) between the Indian and the foreign manufacturers and the weapon systems which are produced using a license.
Having said this, despite the drawbacks, the nascent defence industry of the country is cautiously optimistic about the new policy. Jayant Patil, the Senior Executive Vice President (Defence and Smart Technologies) at Larsen & Toubro Limited said, “We are sure that this list will keep getting amended to add newer programs that lay a road map matching our nation’s aspiration,”.