NEW DELHI (AP) – India on Thursday said it was stepping up production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles and early warning systems, to offset any potential shortages from its main supplier Russia.
India depends on Russia for almost 60% of its defense equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added doubts about future supplies.
Defense officials say India, with the world’s second-largest army, fourth-largest air force and seventh-largest navy, cannot sustain itself by importing.
“Our goal is to develop India as a center of defense production,” Defense Minister Rajnat Singh said Thursday, publishing a list of military equipment that will be produced domestically and no longer imported.
The ministry’s website says military orders of Rs 2,100 billion ($ 28 billion) are likely to be placed with domestic public and private defense manufacturers in the next five years.
Former Lieutenant General DS Hood said that during a visit to India last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin, both sides decided to relocate part of production to India to meet its demands. Imports of helicopters, corvettes, tank engines, missiles and on-board early warning systems will eventually be stopped.
“The demands of the Russian military themselves with the losses they incur may mean that some of the spare parts we need may be diverted,” said Huda, a retired Indian army general.
To meet its short-term needs, India may consider purchasing in the former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries, ministry officials said.
Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine could help India with spare supplies for Russian Sukhoi and MiG-29 fighters, as well as upgrading tanks and armored vehicles as they have similar platforms and spare parts of Soviet origin, a ministry spokesman said. anonymous because he had no right to talk to reporters.
Foreign Minister Subramaniam Jaishankar told her British counterpart Liz Trass during her visit to India last week that the emphasis is now on “made in India” and that “the more we work together, the more opportunities we can work together on.”
The parties discussed ways to strengthen Indo-British defense ties, apparently to reduce India’s strategic dependence on Russia.
India’s Ministry of Defense has so far identified a “positive list of indigenousness” of more than 300 items with a ban on imports to help local producers meet the demands of the armed forces in the coming years.
The Indian Air Force has more than 410 Soviet and Russian fighters with a mix of imported and licensed platforms, including the Su30, MiG-21 and MiG 29. All require Russian spare parts and components. India also has Russian submarines, tanks, helicopters, submarines, frigates and missiles.
Sanctions against Moscow could jeopardize India’s recent $ 375 million export of BrahMos cruise missiles from the Philippines. Russia’s Mashinostroy NGO, which has set up a joint venture with India’s State Defense Research and Development Organization to develop, upgrade and manufacture BrahMos, is responsible for providing engines and GOS for the missile system.
Defense analyst Rahul Bedi said India was expecting supplies of Russian missile systems, frigates, a Shark-class nuclear submarine and submachine guns.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi insists on greater independence, but India lacks a strong industrial base for military equipment.
The process of moving parts production to India has begun, but Hood said it is unclear whether it will be able to quickly compensate for the shortage of supplies.
“I would say that if you really want to see significant progress, it will take at least five years,” he said.
The Ministry of Defense of India has also signed by 2027 nearly 60 offset contracts worth more than $ 13 billion for the purchase of fighter jets and weapons in the US, France, Russia and Israel. The deals require a return to India of 30-50% of the contract value as compensation or reinvestment.
Offsetting involves the obligation of a foreign supplier to purchase a certain amount of goods from the importing country under the contract. The Indian government wants some of that money to benefit the defense industry or allow the country to benefit in terms of technology. It involves setting up joint ventures with Indian defense equipment companies.
The government has announced in the budget for 2022-2023 that 68% of all capital defense procurement will be earmarked for local producers.
Meanwhile, bilateral defense trade with the US increased from almost zero in 2008 to $ 15 billion in 2019. India’s main purchases from the United States included long-range naval patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles and drones.
In 2020, India announced that foreign companies could invest up to 74% in their defense manufacturing units against 49% without government permission. The goal is to attract foreign companies with advanced technology to set up factories in India in collaboration with local companies.
India fully opened its defense sector, which was previously limited to state-owned companies, to the private sector in 2001. However, according to the Ministry of Defense, only 110 of the 330 private companies that have industrial licenses for such production have begun production.
Starting from scratch, India’s state defense research and development organization began trying to develop advanced defense technology in 1958. She has worked on Agni and Prithvi short-range and long-range missiles, Tejas light combat aircraft, tanks, multi-barrel launchers, air defense systems and a wide range of radar and electronic warfare systems.
The Ministry of Defense has allocated 10 billion rupees (135 million dollars) for purchases from startups in 2020-2021.
The government has created two defense-industrial corridors in northern Uttar Pradesh and southern Tamil Nadu, with investments of public and private companies of 200 billion rupees ($ 2.7 billion) by 2024.