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India to stop 101 military imports to defend self-confidence: Minister

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India will stop importing 101 items of military equipment in an attempt to increase domestic defense production, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Indian Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh speaks to the media after the US + India 2 + 2 ministerial dialogue at the State Department in Washington, USA, December 18, 2019. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

Singh said the move follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s request for self-defense. India is one of the world’s leading arms importers.

India has accelerated military purchases in the wake of a June cross-border crossing between Indian and Chinese troops. The government approved the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 other aircraft in July.

Tensions between India and China are at their highest in years after the clash in a disputed border in the western Himalayas where India lost 20 soldiers.

Military experts say India lacks fighter jets, helicopters and field weapons due to years of low funding.

“The import embargo is planned to be implemented gradually between 2020 and 2024,” Singh wrote in a series of tweets.

“Our goal is to awaken the Indian defense industry of the expected demands of the armed forces so that they are better prepared to realize the goal of indigenization.”

India traditionally buys military equipment from Russia, but increasingly buys from the United States and Israel. Modi has repeatedly called for reducing the military’s dependence on expensive imports.

Between April 2015 and August 2020, the Indian defense services had contracted about 3.5 trillion rupees for goods that are now on the holding list.

The government estimates that about 4 trillion rupees for orders will now be placed with the domestic industry over the next five to seven years.

The list of embargoed items includes high-tech weapon systems, artillery guns, sonar systems, transport aircraft, light combat helicopters (LCH), Singh said.

The Ministry of Defense has also divided the budget procurement budget for 2020/21 between domestic and foreign procurement routes, he added.

“A separate budget manager has been created at a cost of almost 520 billion rupees for domestic capital raising during the current financial year.”

($ 1 = 75,0120 Indian Rupees)

Reporting by Swati Bhat; Edited by William Mallard and Michael Perry

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