The dismal level of capabilities of the Indian Army which were highlighted by the Indian Army Chief has led the government to sign three Defence deals for the Special Forces and Infantry soldiers. The three new deals pertain to sub-machine guns, thermal imagers and target designators which are aimed at stepping up the surveillance and firepower capabilities of the force.
The first deal, worth $ 5.75 million, was signed with M/S B&T Switzerland for the acquisition of 1,568 advanced sub-machine guns for the "Ghatak” platoon of infantry battalions. The second deal has been contracted with state-run Bharat Electronics for the supply of 630 hand-held thermal imagers. These are worth $ 29.41 million and will go to the specialized counter-insurgency force in Jammu & Kashmir called Rashtriya Rifles. The third deal is inked with M/S Alpha Designs for the Special Forces in the army. The deal worth $ 23.43 million pertains to laser target designators.
While these three new contracts are significant for the army, experts feel that they are puny in front of the mega Defence deals for the other two forces in the country. The Army Chief had recently written an open letter to the Prime Minister raising doubts over the Defence procurement procedures which have led to the dismal state of Indian Army’s Defence preparedness.
The Indian Army Chief has stated that despite India being the top Defence importer in the world, the Indian Army’s tank fleet was devoid of critical ammunition to counter enemy tanks, its air Defence was 97 per cent obsolete, the infantry lacked night fighting capabilities and large-scale deficiency in critical surveillance capabilities and weapons plagued the force.
Following the acerbic remarks of the Army Chief, Defence Minister AK Antony has sprung into action by holding Defence review meetings, fast-tracking procurement projects and inking the above-mentioned deals for the army. The Defence Ministry has indicated that procurements worth $ 3.33 billion are in the final phase and that a committee has also been appointed under the Army Vice-Chief to fast-track arms deals for the Special Forces. Some of the mega deals being fast-tracked include new regiments of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, 10,000 Konkurs-M anti-tank guided missiles and 25,000 Invar missiles to arm the T-90S tanks, according to sources.
Meanwhile, India is also focused on military modernization with a clear emphasis on transfer of major technology as well as the license to assemble and produce equipment and spare parts. Last year, India released its first Defense Production Policy that facilitates a domestic defense-industrial base. India is also planning to bring down import dependence from 70% to 30% over the next 10 years. Earlier this year, Defense Minister A.K. Antony indicated that indigenization was gaining speed and that almost 40% of India’s armament and equipment is now being made in the country.