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Can't Compel Armed Forces to Procure 'Make in India' Weapons, Says Nirmala Sitharaman

The defence minister said she could not cross a "thin line" to impinge on the freedom of the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force or the Indian Navy "to make their own decisions" as per their operational requirements.

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Updated:April 11, 2018, 8:47 PM IST
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Can't Compel Armed Forces to Procure 'Make in India' Weapons, Says Nirmala Sitharaman
Union Minister for Defence, Nirmala Sitharaman and the Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat an Army event. (File photo: PTI)
Chennai: The government cannot force the Indian armed forces to buy indigenous weapons, said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, after inaugurating a defence exhibition that is aimed at projecting India as a global force in defence manufacturing hub.

The four-day DefExpo India, with the theme of “Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub”, being held in Chennai is the 10th edition of the biennial exercise aimed at establishing Brand India and highlighting the manufacturing capabilities of the country's public and private sectors. India, meanwhile, is one of the biggest defence arms importers in the world.

Asked about the huge export-import gap in the defence sector of a country that does not figure among the top 25 exporters of arms and the reluctance of its forces to buy locally manufactured weaponry, Sitharaman said she could only tell the Indian armed forces to procure from indigenous companies "as much as possible".

According to IANS, she added that she could not cross a "thin line" to impinge on the freedom of the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force or the Indian Navy "to make their own decisions" as per their operational requirements.

"I can't imagine prevailing upon them. We will only want them to give space to local manufacturers and buy indigenous products."

The defence exhibition that targets India's futuristic goal of building a self-sufficient domestic arms industry — a key facet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" slogan — comes even as the armed forces of India faces multiple security threats from various quarters.

At the heart of this is the country's inability to boost indigenous defence manufacturing, which is often blamed on inordinate procedural delays, making a product redundant by the time it gets market-ready.

For example, the advanced versions of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft and the Arjun main battle tank. While the aircraft is still not combat-ready despite being in the making for over three decades, the main battle tank is said to be too heavy and poor in serviceability.

At the defence exhibition, dozens of foreign and local companies and defence public sector undertakings are hard selling their products to the Indian armed forces and foreigners, including defence attaches.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said the government was not targeting a specific number of deals or agreements expected to be signed at the exhibition that "showcases the strengths of India's public sector and also uncovers India's growing private industry and spreading MSME base for components and sub-systems".

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| Edited by: Sanchari Chatterjee
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