India to halt 101 military imports in push for defence self-reliance – Rajnath Singh

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh attends a meeting with Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya (not pictured) at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo, Japan September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India will stop importing 101 items of military equipment in an effort to boost domestic defense production, defense minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.

Singh said the move follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for defense self-reliance. India is one of the world’s top arms importers.

India has accelerated military purchases in the wake of a June border clash between Indian and Chinese troops, with the government approving the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 other planes in July.

Tensions between India and China are at their highest in years following the clash in a disputed stretch of border in the western Himalayas in which India lost 20 soldiers.

Military experts say India is short of combat planes, helicopters and field guns because of years of low funding.

“The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024,” Singh wrote in a series of tweets.

An Indian Navy “Chetak” helicopter demonstrates a rescue operation past the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) “Sarathi” during a media tour in the Arabian Sea near Kochi, India, November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Sivaram V/File Photo

“Our aim is to apprise the Indian defence industry about the anticipated requirements of the Armed Forces so that they are better prepared to realise the goal of indigenisation.”

India traditionally buys military equipment from Russia, but is increasingly purchasing from the United States and Israel. Modi has repeatedly called for cutting the military’s dependence of expensive imports.

Between April 2015 and August 2020, the Indian defense services had contracted around 3.5 trillion rupees worth of items that are now on the hold list.

The government estimates around 4 trillion rupees worth of orders will now be placed with the domestic industry over the next five to seven years.

The list of embargoed items includes high technology weapon systems, artillery guns, sonar systems, transport aircraft, light combat helicopters (LCHs), Singh said.

The defense ministry has also split the capital procurement budget for 2020/21 between domestic and foreign procurement routes, he added.

“A separate budget head has been created with an outlay of nearly 520 billion rupees for domestic capital procurement in the current financial year.”

($1 = 75.0120 Indian rupees)



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