|Defence Minister Rajnath Singh|
In a significant step toward achieving self-reliance in the defence sector, India announced on Sunday that it will ban the import of 101 types of weapons and ammunition for the following five years, including artillery guns, light military transport aircraft, conventional submarines, and long-range land attack cruise missiles.
The defence ministry's comprehensive inventory of equipment makes clear that different categories of military hardware would be subject to an import ban between December 2020 and December 2025.
Additionally, the government has established a special fund to be used for the acquisition of domestically made military weapons.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the initiative on Twitter. "Our aim is to apprise the Indian defence industry of the future requirements of the armed services so that they are better prepared to realize the goal of indigenization," he added.
Later that day, at a web conference, the defence minister announced that on August 15, during his address to the nation from the Red Fort's ramparts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will propose a new blueprint for an independent India.
He also made reference to his declaration regarding the import ban on defence, saying that the Modi administration was making "huge and severe" decisions to ensure that India was self-sufficient. He added: "Our administration will not accept any harm to India's self respect and sovereignty at any cost." The coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated that a nation may not be able to properly preserve its sovereignty if it is not self-reliant.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan" is anticipated to gain momentum as a result of the decision to forbid the import of the 101 products (Self-reliant India Movement). The government made the announcement that a list of items that cannot be imported in May.
Assault rifles, sniper rifles, short-range surface-to-air missiles, beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, corvettes, missile destroyers, light combat helicopters, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, a variety of radars, and various types of ammunition are among the military equipment on the negative import list.
According to Singh, the ministry would take the required actions to guarantee that the manufacturing deadlines for the items on the negative import list are reached. Wheeled armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) are on the list, with a December 2021 embargo date. According to him, the army is anticipated to purchase 200 AFVs for more than 5,000 crore.
Every year, the list of weapons that cannot be imported will be reviewed.
The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will gradually identify additional items of this type for import prohibition after consulting with all parties. The Defence Acquisition Procedure will take proper note of this and guarantee that no item on the negative list is ever processed for import in the future, the minister said.
According to experts, this suggests that India will be required to create technologies for defence systems and platforms that are included on the negative import list. Promoting the use of domestic military hardware by the armed forces is one of the main duties given by the government to the DMA, which is led by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.
The list was created by the ministry following extensive consultations with all parties, including the military and business, and taking into account the potential for the defence industry to produce tools and ammunition locally in the future.
"The tri-services contracted over 260 such item programs between April 2015 and August 2020 for about 3.5 lakh crore, on average. Within the next six to seven years, domestic industry is expected to receive contracts totaling nearly $4 lakh crore, according to Singh.
According to him, the ministry has allocated a portion of the capital budget for 2020–21 for capital purchases made domestically and abroad. In order to fund domestic capital acquisition in the current fiscal year, a separate budget head with an allocation of 52,000 crore was established, the official stated.
The government had announced a raft of measures to boost self reliance in the defence sector in May 2020, ranging from increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing to creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware and notifying a list of weapons/equipment that cannot be imported.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (ret. ), assistant director general, Centre for Air Power Studies, said: "It's a good start to a very long path ahead."
The government will still need to help the small players through financial and policy support, according to Bahadur. "While the Indian private industry, notably the micro, small, and medium firms, will be expected to deliver as per a time schedule and a quality yardstick," he continued.
60–65% of the nation's military needs are met by imports, and over the past ten years, contracts worth billions of dollars have been signed for a variety of weapons and systems, including fighter jets, air defense missile systems, submarine hunter planes, attack helicopters, heavy-lift choppers, and light howitzers.
The head of the defence Research and Development Organization, G Satheesh Reddy, stated that within the set embargo timelines, the nation was able to create and produce the military equipment on the negative import list.
The list of things can and will need to be manufactured domestically, according to Ashok Wadhawan, chairman of PLR Systems. There will be no other choice except to close any capability gaps if there are any. PLR Systems, an Israeli and Indian joint venture, is vying for contracts to provide the military with assault rifles, light machine guns, carbines, and sniper rifles.
In a report published in April, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) stated that India was the third-largest military spender in the world in 2017, behind the United States and China.
The release of the negative import list, according to Confederation of India Industry director general Chandrajit Banerjee, signaled the beginning of a "new glide route" for Atmanirbhar Bharat. Atmanirbhar Bharat and indigenous defence manufacturing receive a significant boost from the declaration of 52,000 crore for domestic capital procurement and the list of 101 goods for import prohibition, he continued.
The defence minister promised a "boom" on a Sunday morning but delivered a "whimper," according to former Union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram. He was making reference to Singh's "major announcement" tweet from an hour prior to the defence minister's declaration of the initiative to attain self-reliance.
"Import Embargo is high sounding jargon," Chidambaram wrote on Twitter. What it really implies is that after two to four years, we'll try to manufacture the identical equipment we currently import.