The Indian Army is looking at localised production of specialised ammunition that it currently imports as the force has been working on a negative list of import items.
Addressing an online seminar organised by the Society for Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), in partnership with the Department of Defence Production, Army Vice-Chief Lt Gen S.K. Saini said the negative list will help the indigenous industry and provide micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) the opportunity to fulfill the defence needs of the force.
He, however, assured that the import ban list will not restrict the forces from procuring niche technologies abroad.
As ThePrint reported on 16 May, the armed forces are identifying weapons and platforms that will be placed on an import ban list as the Narendra Modi government has announced a slew of measures to boost the ‘Make in India’ programme in the defence sector.
Perceptible shift from OFBs to private entities
Lt Gen Saini said there is a perceptible shift of dependence in the Army, from the state-run Ordnance Factory Boards (OFBs) to private entities in terms of non-core activities and even in certain types of critical ammunition.
“It is hoped that other ammunition varieties including those that were being imported currently, based on the response of the defence industry, will also be added in the list of items to be manufactured indigenously,” he said.
The Ministry of Defence had in December 2017 approved manufacturing of eight select ammunition under the Make in India initiative.
This included the 30mm ammunition used by infantry carrying vehicles, 125mm armour piercing types and 40 mm grenades that can be machine launched.
Army sources said while eight have been identified for local manufacturing, more ammunition like the 40mm used by Air Defence and those for Anti Material Rifles continue to be imported.
‘Finance minister’s announcement will have positive impact’
Lt Gen Saini echoed the call for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said the defence production and policy announcements, made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 17 May, will have a huge positive impact on India’s defence acquisition and sustenance.
He said 80 per cent of the Army’s capability development and more than 92 per cent of its sustenance budget was based on indigenous products and services.
Lt Gen Saini urged startups and MSMEs to come up with sophisticated technical solutions to military challenges and advised that the use of these technologies concurrently in the civil domain will help bring down their costs, making them financially viable in the medium and long term.
He also asked larger enterprises to act as major hubs of R&D, manufacturing and integration, which in turn will provide impetus to the smaller MSMEs to provide them with ancillary support, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem in the long run.