India plans to curb weapons imports, focus on domestic manufacturing

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BY RAJNISH SINGH
New Delhi, June 10 (IANS)
Under its “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan”, the Narendra Modi government has decided to soon initiate procurement of arms and ammunition from local industries to reduce import dependence on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
This is a post Covid-19 plan of the Central government which it would implement after it gets relief in fight against the deadly virus.
The Union Home Ministry (MHA) — which is responsible for the country’s internal security — will soon urge private industries to come forward to meet the expectations of the government so that procurement of arms and ammunition from foreign countries could be curtailed.
It is learnt that the government is open to solve the issues of the private sector by shaping them to be price competitive and focus on quality in production so as to fulfill needs of best arms and ammunition.
The plan not only envisages catering to domestic needs, but also to export Indian products abroad. This is an attempt to achieve the vision of “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” as India has been for the last many years dependent on outside OEMs.
Sources said that the government started preparing a road map in this direction since it came into power, and the Arms (Amendment) Bill, 2019, bringing changes to the six-decade-old Arms Act, 1959 was passed by Parliament in December last year for this purpose.
Under the amended law, licensed private industries have been allowed to manufacture and proof test small arms and ammunition including the ones being used by the military.
Addressing a FICCI webinar, Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy on Wednesday also signalled the government’s plan, saying they will focus on promoting domestic manufacturing of arms, ammunition and other security products under ‘Make in India’ to promote Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan — a call given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his May 12 address to the nation in which he talked about the pre- and post-Covid worlds. In order to fulfil the dream of making the 21st century India’s century, Modi had said the way forward is through ensuring that the country becomes “self-reliant”.
Noting that India was dependent on worldwide OEMs for procuring arms and ammunition for the last several years, the Minister said: “Now the government of India has decided to soon initiate procurement from local industries to reduce import dependence.”
Reddy highlighted that the government is also in the process of upgrading various testing centres and labs in the country. He added that the government will also use the Government e-Marketplace portal to promote domestic products.
In this direction, India is expected to cut short the artillery list of imports this year because guns that have lately been inducted into the army such as M777 howitzers, K9 Vajra and Dhanush are being manufactured in India.
To promote indigenous defence manufacturing and reduce imports, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, last month, had announced that a list of weapons and equipment banned for import would be made in consultation with the Department of Military Affairs headed by the Chief of Defence Staff.
In a bid to boost domestic manufacturing of arms and ammunition under the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the MHA in 2017 had notified new Arms rules that allow arms manufacturing licences to be valid for the lifetime of the licensee company. Prior to this notification, such licenses had to be renewed every five years.
The liberalised rules only apply to licences granted by the MHA to small arms and ammunition companies, and those granted by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under powers delegated it, for tanks and other armoured vehicles, spacecraft, defence aircraft, warships of all kinds, arms and ammunition and allied items of defence equipment other than small arms.
There are nearly 100 firms licensed by the MHA for the manufacture of guns (single barrel/double barrel) and around 30 firms manufacturing cartridges (blank or live cartridges or both) up to the quota permitted in their licences.
Max Aerospace, Bharat Forge, L&T and Punj Lloyd are among the Indian firms who legally manufacture arms and ammunition.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)