Although analysts and military advisers are divided on the wisdom of such sudden, heavy reliance on local production for military needs, India is launching a campaign to produce at least half of the nation’s total weapon and equipment needs within the next 10 to 12 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the new approach to military defense this month as part of a countrywide “Made in India” campaign intended to boost the domestic economy.
The amount of military equipment India intends to produce itself under the new campaign will be worth over $100 billion.
Currently, the Indian defense industry exports $100 million per year, but officials have stated that Indian industry has the potential to produce high-tech weaponry, submarines and warships.
“During the past decades plus, India has been importing weapon systems under Buy [global] or Buy and Make [with transfer of technology to state-owned defense companies], which has not altered the import-vs-domestic ratio of 70 percent imports and 30 percent [domestic],” a Larsen and Toubro executive was quoted as commenting. “That the national security cannot continue to be in the hands of the foreign original equipment manufacturers is long felt and must be realized.”
India’s total annual defense imports are worth almost $6bn. India has been the biggest arms importer in the world since 2010 when it overtook China.
Currently, the main supplier of India’s military needs is Russia. Seventy-five to 85 percent of India’s Air Force, Army and Navy is equipped with Soviet or Russian military hardware. Nearly $5bn of India’s defense budget was spent in Russia last year, amounting to one-third of all russia exports, and a significantly increase from 2012’s $3bn trade.
India is also the biggest foreign buyer of US weapons. India imported $1.9bn of military equipment from America in 2013, edging out the previous biggest buyer of US weapons, Saudi Arabi.
So far, attempts by the Indian Ministry of Defense to domestically source light utility helicopters, infantry combat vehicles, and tactical communication system programs have not taken off, causing some criticism of the program.
Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier general and defense analyst, recently commented, “Categorization has to be done based on the capabilities of the domestic defense industry and not arbitrarily. Moreover, the primary aim of the defense procurement procedure is to ensure that the armed forces capacity building remains on stream.”
Rajinder Bhatia, CEO of private-sector defense company Bharat Forge, also questioned the Make India campaign: “Make India programs should be for high-tech projects only. The rest of the procurement should be either Buy Indian Or Buy and Make Indian.”
However, Modi has made it policy to arm India massively. India is currently undertaking a $100 billion defense upgrade, and in August, Modi stated that he wanted to build an Indian Army such that no country “dare cast an evil eye” on the nation.
By Andy Stern
Photo: U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK)