Sept. 28 (UPI) -- India's defense ministry announced a plan to purchase U.S. military supplies on Monday, despite a policy change encouraging local manufacturing.
The Defense Acquisition Council approved the purchase of 72,000 assault rifles from U.S. company Sig Sauer Inc., as well as what a ministry spokesman called "a smart anti-airfield weapon," among armaments from other countries.
In 2019, India ordered 72,400 rifles from Sig Sauer, which have already been delivered.
"To equip the Frontline Troops of the Army, the DAC also accorded approval for procurement of SIG SAUER Assault Rifles at a cost of approx. Rs.780 crore," or about $105 million, a brief Defense Ministry statement said on Monday.
The large investment in rifles is in response to India's border conflict with China, as well as a solution to replacing the flaw-ridden INSAS 5.6 mm rifles, made in India and introduced in 1998.
The expenditure on foreign-made arms comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a ban on imports of over 100 types of military equipment in August. The ban is meant to encourage self-reliance in the face of the threat from China through made-in-India manufacturing of defense equipment.
The ban includes artillery guns, short range surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers, radar equipment and uniforms, and will be phased in, beginning in December, over a four-year period.
Between 2015 and 2019, India was the world's second-largest importer of defense equipment, behind Saudi Arabia.
The country has largely purchased Soviet- and Russian-made equipment, like the S-400 air defense system, but also bought 36 Rafale fighter planes from France and currently purchases much of its foreign-made equipment from the United States. About 60 percent of Indian military purchases are imported.
On Monday, Apurva Chandra, the defense ministry's acquisitions chief, unveiled a new "Defense Acquisitions Procedure" which includes a heavy emphasis on leasing equipment, notably in the information and communications technology sector.
"If we purchase the equipment, we have to create a lot of infrastructure for its upkeep," Chandra said. "When we lease equipment, we also benefit as the interest rates abroad are quite low. The new chapter on procuring ICT systems and products is to harness the expertise India has in the software sector."