Private Sector

Atmanirbhar defence: As world’s second largest arms importer, has India jumped the gun with latest embargo?

In a material move to boost indigenous defence manufacturing and production, the Indian Defence Ministry announced, on Sunday, that it will be placing an import embargo on 101 military items, as part of the central government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ drive. The ban will be gradually implemented between this year and 2024. The list of items is wide-ranging and includes various types of ammunitition, radars, sonars, artillery guns, corvettes, assault rifles, helicopters and transport aircraft.

Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s launch of India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking on the occasion of National Technology Day in May and addressing scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said “we always have to keep in mind that there is no alternative to indigenous technology and indigenous manufacture. We will be truly self-reliant only when India succeeds in becoming a net exporter instead of a net importer of technology.”

‘Make in India’ defence projects have floundered

While the conviction in the defence minister’s words is, indeed, commendable, the ground reality tells a different story. The Narendra Modi-led government came to power on the back of a powerful ‘Make in India’ campaign in 2014, however, as of December 2019, the numerous defence related projects under the scheme had been languishing at various stages.

Projects that included the manufacture of stealth submarines, light utility helicopters, infantry combat vehicles, fighter jets, and transport aircraft, worth approximately 3.5 lakh crore were yet to enter the production stage, six years on.

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