A technician at work on a military fighter aircraft at an HAL assembly line

India continues to make strides in the field of defence production to boost its aim of being a self-reliant nation under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign

Following a history of repeated confrontations with hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China that are actively engaged in waging proxy wars against the state of India, the Nation has seen a significant rise in weapon procurements in recent times. The need of developing indigenous weapons and military equipment including warfighting vehicles was felt immediately after the deadly Galwan valley clash with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in May 2020. The clash led to a military standoff between the two nations, which still has not concluded.

According to the Global Firepower Index, which releases military strength rankings, the Chinese military ranks 3rd in the power index. It has a strength of 2 million active personnel and a defence budget of $250 billion. In contrast, India ranks 4th with a strength of 1.4 million active personnel and a defence budget of $49.6 billion.

India’s Feats In Indigenous Defence Production

The most relevant development as a step towards indigenous defence production came in 1983 when the government sanctioned the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). The program resulted in the development of missiles Prithvi (surface-to-surface), Akash (surface-to-air), Trishul (the naval version of Prithvi), Nag (anti-tank), and Agni series of Ballistic missiles.

Under the fresh ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign, an Indian version of the Israeli Tavor rifle is being developed that is known as the Indian Tavor X-95 rifle. Moreover, to enhance the communication among the forces engaged in the operation areas, the army has made a decision to acquire the SDR-TAC. The SDR-TAC, jointly designed and developed by the Defense Electronics Applications Laboratory (DEAL) of the Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) will bring strategic depth to the Armed Forces.

Furthermore, in order to enhance India’s firepower, the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) developed India’s main battle tank called Arjun. The latest version of the tank known as Arjun MK-1A is more suitable for desert terrain and comes with much more effective and lethal features. As per reports, 72 new features have been added to the new variant. Reportedly, the Arjun Mark-1A will have a better target acquisition system for the daytime. The tank has been dubbed the ‘Hunter Killer’.

‘Pinaka’ multi-barrel rocket launcher system is yet another product developed by the DRDO. The system has an effective range of 40-60 Km and can fire a salvo of 12 HE rockets in 44 seconds.

Moreover, in a boost to the prowess of the Indian Navy, an indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant was launched on 02 September 2022. It is a significant milestone achieved by the country on the account of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign. Launched at the Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL), the carrier is imbibed with the art automation feature, and is the largest ship constructed in the country so far.

Similarly, in a bid to boost the capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces, a multirole fighter jet ‘TEJAS’ was developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. HAL TEJAS is a single-engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter capable of carrying a 3.5-ton payload, states the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited website.

Furthermore, the recently inducted multirole Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachand, is yet another feat accomplished by the Indian defence sector. Designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the helicopter is set to boost the operational capabilities of the Indian Army Aviation Corps and the Indian Air Force. One significant feature of the chopper is its flight ceiling, which is the highest among all attack helicopters in the world.

The development of Arihant-class submarines is yet another task being undertaken under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Campaign to give a boost to India’s maritime security looked after by the Indian Navy.

It is a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines being developed for the Indian Navy under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project to design and build nuclear-powered submarines. The vessels are classified as 'strategic strike nuclear submarines' by India. Moreover, INS Arihant holds the distinction of being the first ballistic missile submarine to have been built by a country other than the five permanent members of the UNSC.

New Defence-Related Procurements

Among the new procurements to ramp up India’s defence capabilities comes the AK-203 assault rifle. The rifle uses 7.62x39mm ammunition and is set to replace the INSAS rifle which uses 5.56mm ammunition. According to Indian Army veteran, Major Gaurav Arya, the purpose of the INSAS rifle is to wound the enemy rather than kill him. Till now, 70 AK-203 rifles have been delivered to India since Jan 2022.

The real purpose of the procurement of arms and ammunition by India is not warfighting but its usage as a tool of deterrence. India has so far been successful in the usage of its soft power in global diplomacy but with new challenges to the nation’s security, the country has started realizing the significance of developing its hard power to keep adversaries at bay.

India is currently surrounded by two nuclear-armed nations with a history of conflicts with them. In order to ensure peace and security from any hostile development, India has an urgent need to enhance its military capabilities. The right way forward is the upgradation and strengthening of the arms and equipment to counter any misadventure from the foes.