Union defence minister Rajnath Singh at the ‘Ammo India 2022’ conference in New Delhi on Wednesday.
A day after the Centre cleared indigenous weapon purchases worth ₹28,732 crore, including armed drones, carbines, bullet-proof jackets and ammunition, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday made a strong pitch for self-reliance in ammunition, while also exhorting the private sector to partner with the Centre to cater to the requirements of the armed forces.
A healthy mix of local endeavours and foreign collaboration is the bedrock of India’s journey on the road to self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector, he said while addressing the ‘AMMO India 2022’ conference, jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, and the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies.
“Scientific and technological, as well as economic, development of a nation reflects in the capacity of its weapons and ammunition. For India to become a world power and one of the leading countries in defence production, we must move forward in the indigenous design, development and production of ammunition,” Singh said.
Import substitution of ammunition, which is a recurring requirement, is a top priority for the National Democratic Alliance government, following a phased ban imposed on the import of different types of ammunition in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
Singh said that precision-guided ammunition will play a key role in future warfare – equal to weapons and platforms – due to its constantly-evolving nature.
The use of such ammunition played a critical role during the Kargil War and the 2019 Balakot airstrikes in Pakistan, he said. “Earlier, only the size and explosive capacity of bombs mattered, but now their smartness is equally important.”
Describing the advantages of smart weapons for target precision, the defence minister said, “If any enemy base is to be destroyed, precision ammunition will selectively target it, and not civil establishments. This is not the case with traditional ammunition. Wars are fought with the country’s military, not with its people. Through precision ammunition, destruction of civil establishments can be avoided and the values of peace and humanity in times of war can be preserved.”
The central government has imposed a phased ban on the import of 310 different types of weapons, systems and ammunition (through three positive indigenisation lists) and earmarked ₹84,598 crore – 68% of the military’s capital acquisition budget – in FY 2022-23 for the purchase of indigenous weapons and systems.
“Be it guided extended range rockets for Pinaka, advanced light-weight torpedo, anti-radiation missiles or loitering munition, there are 43 such items in the third (positive indigenisation) list. This reflects our commitment to achieve self-reliance in the field and our confidence in the research, development and manufacturing prowess of the domestic defence industry,” the minister said.
“India ranks among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of military spending, which makes it one of the most attractive markets for defence. We believe in having a healthy mix of local endeavours and foreign collaboration in this journey of self-reliance,” Singh said.
FICCI senior vice president Subhrakant Panda said the defence ministry should begin trials of all available import substitution options in a time-bound manner to enhance the private sector’s participation.
“Indigenisation through handholding is the way to go,” he said.