India is working to improve its domestic arms sector in order to reduce its reliance on Russian arms imports while also strengthening ties with like-minded countries. The decision comes as New Delhi grows concerned about possible Russian delays and cancelled arms delivery as a result of the Ukraine conflict.
With the world’s second-largest army, fourth-largest air force, and seventh-largest navy, India is a formidable military power. Despite this, the country is one of the top arms importers in the world, accounting for 11% of global orders and importing 70% of its equipment. A remnant of their Cold War-era relationship, India buys 60% of its weaponry from Russia.
Now that Russia has suffered significant material losses in Ukraine, it’s possible that certain weapons orders could be redirected to replace lost equipment, resulting in extended delivery delays. At the same time, sanctions against Russia’s defence industry have raised questions about Russia’s long-term viability as India’s principal military equipment supplier.
India also imports large amounts of military hardware from France, Israel, and the United States, all of which raises concerns about possible political ramifications. Rajnath Singh, India’s defence minister, stated on April 7 that the country aspires to become a major defence production hub.
He also announced India’s Third Positive Indigenization List, which includes 101 military products that the country plans to manufacture domestically between 2022 and 2027.
The list, according to Minister Singh, demonstrates India’s rapid progress toward defence self-sufficiency.
The ambitious list includes big-ticket goods like light tanks, naval utility helicopters, rapid attack craft, and anti-ship missiles, underscoring India’s new defence indigenization priority.
India announced its Second Positive Indigenization List in May, which included 108 military goods such as sensors, simulators, armaments, tank engines, medium-ranged surface-to-air missile systems, and platforms like helicopters, corvettes, and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems. India plans to build the mentioned systems domestically between 2021 and 2025, according to the list.
In August 2020, India issued its First Positive Indigenization List, which details the military products it expects to produce domestically from 2020 to 2022.
The list contains high-end items such as artillery cannons, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, cargo planes, light combat helicopters, radars, and wheeled armoured battle vehicles, in addition to basic individual protective equipment.
India’s defence sector is imbalanced in comparison to its regional security environment and capacity needs for a significant military power. This, critics claim, is due to a lack of support from higher political leadership, limited research and development (R&D) expenditures, inefficiency of the major R&D and manufacturing companies, bad human resource management, and a faulty acquisition system.
The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India is the primary government agency in charge of military research and development.
Internal inconsistencies and challenges, on the other hand, have hampered the development of India’s domestic armaments sector, according to observers.
The DRDO’s largest difficulty, according to the classified 2008 Rao Rama study, is attracting, cultivating, and retaining talent. According to the survey, 57 percent of DRDO scientists depart owing to professional discontent, and 87 percent of entry-level personnel join DRDO with the expectation of better career chances, but are quickly disillusioned. Other concerns raised in the report include the hiring of average employees and recruiting delays.
DRDO may have also taken on a number of large-scale projects that were ultimately unable to complete due to human, financial, and infrastructure resource restrictions.
Furthermore, with the noteworthy exception of the Indian Navy, DRDO programmes are frequently carried out without the cooperation of end-users at all phases of development.
As a result of these internal and external issues, India finds it difficult to attract international investment in its military sectors. One of these concerns is protectionism, as India’s 2020 Defense Procurement Procedure prohibits Indian companies from bidding as primary vendors in purchase programmes involving more than 41% foreign direct investment (FDI).
As a result, only Indian enterprises with a 51 percent equity stake in the company are eligible to participate as major vendors in such initiatives. As a result, global defence contractors may be hesitant to engage in or even establish a domestic subsidiary in India.
Furthermore, India’s extraordinary prudence when it comes to national security considerations causes bureaucratic roadblocks, particularly when it comes to sensitive military equipment. At the same time, other countries may impose their own export restrictions on sensitive military technology.
While India’s military indigenization plan is unquestionably ambitious, it will need to overcome a number of political, human, economic, and security challenges in order to transition from a net arms importer to a future production centre.