Main Battle Tank ARJUN undergoing desert trials at the Pokhran test range

The Army asserted that it does not have an import bias and is more than willing to fight with domestically made weapon systems

NEW DELHI: Batting for the Indian industry, the Army has asserted that it does not have an import bias and is more than willing to fight with domestically made weapon systems, especially as importing technology during crunch situations could have an impact on strategic autonomy.

Terming the last year as a game changer for indigenous defence manufacturing, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen SK Saini has said that all equipment must pass tests of quality and adhere to timelines but there assured that the force is committed to equipment designed and made in India.

“Developing indigenous and local capabilities to confront emerging security challenges is an imperative need. It is no secret that during crunch situations, technologies developed by other countries would either not be available or if shared, will be at the cost of our strategic autonomy,” Lt Gen Saini said at a webinar organised by FICCI.

He added that “It will always be an honour for us to fight and win wars with equipment Made in India and made by Indians,”. The comments gain significance given the ongoing crisis with China and multiple emergency purchase deals that are being negotiation with foreign nations since June to urgently acquire equipment ranging from arms, ammunition and missiles to tanks and drones.

Top bureaucrat, Defence Production Secretary Raj Kumar said that a number of initiatives have been taken to promote Indian industry and shared that a note on revised Foreign Direct Investment rules (to take it up to 74 percent under the automatic route) have been shared with cabinet for approval.

Kumar laid out a roadmap for indigenous production and said that exports will be of high importance in coming years and that these would be led by the industry. The bureaucrat said that efforts are on to identify sets of weapons that can be offered to friendly nations and the industry would lead efforts to interact and generate lists with defence attaches of foreign countries.

“We want to Make for India and for the world. We also want you to export and the government will stand side by side with the industry to promote exports,” he said, adding that the government is working on generating a second negative import list for defence equipment and that this would be periodically expanded.

In an important clarification, Sanjay Jaju, Joint Secretary (DIP), Ministry of Defence said that the negative list would not impact ongoing purchases under the `buy Indian’ route but the industry is being invited to raise attention if procurements going under the global route can be manufactured domestically.