NEW DELHI: India’s Hindu nationalist government on Saturday cleared long-delayed projects worth $13.1 billion to modernise the nation’s ageing Soviet-era military hardware and boost its domestic defence industry, a report said.
The move underscores the desire of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to update the country’s military as it looks to defend itself, especially after recent deadly border clashes with Pakistan and a tense stand-off with Chinese troops.
The Defence Acquisition Council on Saturday approved defence procurement proposals worth 800 billion rupees ($13.1 billion), many of which were longstanding, at a meeting chaired by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, the Press Trust of India said.
India, the second most populous nation in the world, is in the midst of a $100-billion defence upgrade programme. It cleared proposals worth nearly $3.5 billion in June.
Defence ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
India is the world’s largest arms importer with the United States recently overtaking Russia as its biggest arms supplier.
But slow procurement over decades and the collapse of a string of defence deals during the previous centre-left Congress party government’s rule has left the military short of key equipment.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing for greater indigenisation of the military industry as India imports around 70 percent of its defence hardware.
In August, Modi urged India to build up its military might to the point that no other country “dare cast an evil eye” on the South Asian nation.
He also said that India had to stop relying heavily on defence imports and focus instead on local research, design and manufacture.
In line with that, among the major proposals to receive approval were a 500-billion-rupee tender to indigenously build six submarines for the navy and purchase 8,356 Israeli guided missiles as well as 12 Dornier aircraft, PTI said citing defence ministry officials.
Modi’s new government has raised the foreign investment cap on India’s defence industries to speed up modernisation of the military.
India has fought three wars with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
The country has also been seeking to shore up its defence capabilities to counter a military build-up by an increasingly assertive China.