Every other soldier of India’s million-strong army may soon be armed with a domestically made AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifle, as a final deal with Russia might be taking shape at the DefExpo in Lucknow.
New Delhi is keen to order 670,000 Kalashnikovs from the joint venture established last year with the eponymous Russian conglomerate. A factory has already been built for the purpose in the northern district of Amethi. However, the initial cost of production and technology transfer is driving up the prices of Kalashnikovs, arguably the most famous assault rifles in the world for over two generations.
The two partners in the joint venture are presently engaged in bringing down the cost from $1,000 per rifle to something more affordable. Even though the AK-203 is a vastly improved and advanced version of the rifle, its iconic predecessor, the AK-47, can be bought for a few hundred dollars in the global arms market.
A delay, not an impediment
Despite the delays, the Indian Kalashnikov project is fueled by the political will of both nations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on Wednesday that he wants India to export $5 billion worth of weapons within five years.