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Ministry of Home Affairs has held a discussion with 17 private companies to locally manufacture the small arms used by Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), which were earlier imported from foreign arms manufacturers. The 17 companies which were party to the discussion included Vem Technologies, Kalyani Strategic, Shyam Arms, Premier Explosives, HYT, L & T, and Godrej.

“The private companies shortlisted by the Amit Shah-led MHA own licence to manufacture weapons,” said a senior home ministry official. After the call of Prime Minister Modi for Atmanirbhar Bharat, the home ministry has decided that Central Armed Police Forces will use indigenously produced weapons.

The Director-General of various units of CAPF like ITBP, BSF, CRPF, SSB, CISF, NSG and Assam Rifles, and industry representatives held first round to discuss a few days ago. “The security forces have been asked to provide their requirement and to cut down on the import of arms and ammunitions which can be easily developed with the help of local manufacturers,” said another home ministry official.

Awarding the contract to private manufacturers is a big step for the defence industry, which had government monopoly for decades, and thus, is among the most incompetent and inefficient sectors of the country.

India’s defence manufacturing is still in the nascent stage, thanks to the monopoly of the public sector. The post-independence government restricted entry of private players in the strategic sector like defence equipment manufacturing, and the meagre resources were put to while elephant companies like HAL.

The public sector companies like HAL, DRDO, and Ordnance factory Board could not get any major breakthrough in seven decades of its existence and the country continued to import defence equipment from private manufacturers in countries like the United States, France, and United Kingdom.

All India public sector companies have been able to achieve is to manufacture less skill intensive and tech-intensive equipment for the Indian aviation sector by technology transfer from the Soviet Union.

The interesting thing is that most foreign manufacturers from whom the Indian public sector manufacturer like HAL gets contract to manufacture weapons for domestic use on behalf of the Indian government are private companies. Not a single defence manufacturer in the top 25 in the world is a public sector unit, because, no company could manufacture the best weapons until there is cut-throat free-market competition. HAL, despite years of monopoly in India’s defence sector, could not take place in the world’s top 25 companies.

Today, India is one of the largest arms importers of the world. India has to import all defence equipment ranging from fighter aircraft to guns, because the HAL and DRDO are too incompetent to manufacture even small arms.

Five largest defence contractors in the world- Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, BAE Systems plc, The Raytheon Company, and Northrop Grumman Corporation are Western private sector companies. The involvement of private players would make India self-dependent in the defence sector in the next few decades and the government would not be forced to spent foreign exchange to buy the weapons which our armed forces use.

The involvement of private players would not only make the country self-dependent, but also improve the efficiency and quality of the weapons. If the private players succeed in developing good weapons, in the next few years even state police forces could get rid of the substandard guns and ammunition manufactured by public sector players like Ordnance Factory Board, DRDO, and HAL.

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