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Indian Defense minister wants more local arms production

Feb. 22, 2013 at 1:55 PM   |   Comments

NEW DELHI, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony wants Indian industry to produce more armaments.

For decades India has been forced to import defense materials, seeing the nation emerge as the world's single largest national arms importer due to a lack of a comprehensive armaments industry.

However, immense defense contracts have resulted in a number of embarrassing, high-profile corruption scandals involving potential arms contracts.

Seeking to improve the situation, Antony is assembling a "road map" for increasing in "a national mission-mode" manner India's weaponry production base.

Antony's mission has been affected by numerous recent armaments scandals, most recently a bribery issue engulfing a government contract with AgustaWestland for 12 VVIP helicopters, The Times of India reported.

India's lack of a national armaments industry, or defense industrial base means that, unlike China, New Delhi is forced to import more than 60 percent of its military hardware and software, increasing national vulnerability in times of emergency should resupply lines be interrupted.

Antony on Wednesday told seminar participants in New Delhi that it was "essential" for India to speed up developing an indigenous armaments sector to eliminate corruption from the nation's defense sector.

He said "maximum indigenization" of military hardware is the "ultimate answer" to avoid controversies and ensure "Indian taxpayers' money" isn't lost to "greedy players" in the arms business.

"It's important the private sector emerges as a major player," Antony said.

Antony observed that "imports should be the last resort. The government is going to have a second look at both the defense procurement procedure and the defense production policy and amend it in a manner that (private) industry can take more interest in defense production."

Alluding to the helicopter acquisition scandal, Antony said: "After the recent controversy, I have come to the conclusion and feel that the ultimate answer is maximum indigenization. Depending too much on imported equipment is costly and may also land us in trouble.

"So, to the maximum extent, we must try to indigenize. Zero import is not possible but maximum purchases should be indigenous."

He said a first priority should be an attempt to find an Indian source to produce the needed equipment. And only look internationally is there is no local company to provide the materiel.

"I am one who believes in giving maximum support to the armed forces in their speedy modernization," Antony said. "You must get most modern equipment at the earliest as the security scenario around us is so volatile that we can't take risks."

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says India was the world's largest arms importer from 2007-11 with 10 percent of global weapon import purchases. SIPRI says India has the world's seventh largest defense budget, exceeded only by the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

Topics: K. Antony
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