India is looking for military equipment and ammunition from domestic companies and eastern European nations, as the world’s largest importer of Russian armaments looks for alternatives at a time when Moscow is fighting a conflict with Ukraine and facing sanctions. According to two government officials and a defense source, New Delhi has long talked of diversifying its armed forces’ suppliers and possibly producing more equipment at home, goals that have taken on new significance since Russia’s incursion.
According to an internet site where the defence ministry discloses its demands, India has identified 25.15 billion rupees ($324 million) worth of defence equipment it wants domestic manufacturers to make this year rather than buying from abroad. “The current international order and geopolitical landscape, which is very, very volatile,” Air Marshal Vibhas Pande, who oversees the Indian Air Force’s maintenance operations, said earlier this month. “The only choice if we want to guarantee assurance and stability… is to develop a completely self-sufficient or self-sustaining supply chain mechanism within the country,” Pande told defence manufacturers in New Delhi.
He did not, however, reference the crisis in Ukraine, which Moscow refers to as a “special military operation.” Another document revealed that the Indian air force is looking for ejection pods for Russian-designed Sukhoi fighter jets and propellers for Ukraine-made Antonov cargo aircraft. Pande stated that the air force hoped to source all tyres and batteries for important aircraft fleets from domestic companies such as MRF within three years (MRF.NS). According to a senior government source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, India aspires to produce up to 50% of its defence equipment domestically.
A request for comment on India’s reliance on Moscow for military gear, as well as if the war in Ukraine and Russia’s glacial progress, were concerns, was not immediately responded to. Brahma Chellaney, a New Delhi-based defence and strategic affairs specialist, said that while Russian weaponry has served India well in the past, it has increased acquisitions from countries such as the United States, France, and Israel in recent years. “Transitioning to a new defence system is always a long evolutionary process. “You can’t swap suppliers overnight,” he explained.
According to the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database, India’s armed forces employ 1.38 million people and are one of the world’s major arms importers, spending $12.4 billion between 2018 and 2021, with Russia accounting for $5.51 billion. The Indian Army is armed with Kalashnikov weapons and Russian-made tanks. Sukhoi fighter planes and Mi-17 transport helicopters are used by the air force, and the navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was previously part of the Russian navy. Some of India’s Western allies, like the United Kingdom and the United States, have expressed an interest in expanding their defence offerings to New Delhi in recent months.
A THREE-PART APPROACH
The army, which spends a lot of time guarding India’s long borders with China and Pakistan after fighting wars with both, is working on a three-pronged strategy to stay ready, according to a second government official. The government is looking into which eastern European countries utilise weapons and platforms similar to those used by the Indian military, with the possibility of supplying spare parts and ammunition. “We have alternate possibilities in case (Russian) supply lines are strained,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the topic is sensitive.
The Indian government is also encouraging its Russian counterparts to complete some significant projects that have already been agreed upon, according to the official. S-400 missile systems are among them, as is a deal to construct more than 600,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 assault weapons at a new factory in northern India. The desire to diversify and indigenize is already having an impact on certain Indian businesses. According to an industry source, demand for assault rifles has surged at PLR Systems, a joint venture between the Adani Group and Israel Weapon Industries that manufactures small arms in India.
As an alternative for Russian Kalashnikov guns, PLR Systems provides the Israel-designed Galil ACE assault rifle. “The need for guns comes from both states and central armed police forces,” said the person, who did not want to be identified because the talks were private. “No one can get it from outside right now.” Published in India.