India has imported 36 advanced Rafale fighter jets from Dassault of France

India earlier this month announced curbs on $47 billion worth of defence imports

The government's move to ban the import of certain weapon systems will do little to boost local manufacturing and is sowing uncertainty at a time when the country is trying to ramp up defences on its restive borders with China and Pakistan, according to analysts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration earlier this month announced curbs on $47 billion worth of imports that include communication satellites, conventional submarines and light machine guns. But defence experts said they didn't address critical issues such as the certification of systems and locally-made components, and won't prevent the military from making emergency purchases of equipment from foreign vendors.

PM Modi has struggled to transform the world's second biggest arms importer into a defence manufacturing powerhouse since a 2014 proposal to produce indigenous equipment and systems worth $100 billion by 2020. The target has since been slashed in half and the deadline extended to 2027, while the need for more advanced weaponry grows more urgent following the most deadly border clash with China in four decades.

The defence ministry's ban on imports will have little impact beyond "measures already taken to localize defence production and reduce import dependency," said Amit Cowshish, a consultant with the New Delhi-based Manohar Parrikar Institute For Defence Studies and Analyses and a former financial adviser on acquisitions in the Ministry of Defence.

"The promotion of local manufacturing requires more cooperation between the military and domestic defence industry," Mr Cowshish said. "Mutual trust is missing, with everyone working at cross purposes."

While India is the world's third-biggest military spender, the Air Force, Navy and the Army are still equipped with weapons that are largely obsolete.

'Self-Reliance Push'

The push for locally-produced systems and hardware was a big step toward self-reliance in defence and creates an opportunity for the defence industry to manufacture the items using their own design and development capabilities, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on August 9.

A defence ministry spokesperson was not immediately available for a comment.

Similar policy declarations to stem imports were made by India in 2013, under then prime minister Manmohan Singh, and also by PM Modi's administration in his first term in 2018, didn't significantly increase the 'Made in India' products deployed by the military.

"Time and access to technology is fundamental to such efforts -- currently a large proportion India's defence industry is little better than system integrators," said Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based independent defence analyst. "A major dose of realism is needed."

The banned list is also vague on the position of joint-ventures between Indian and foreign manufacturers and license produced weapon systems, he said.