Modi’s “Make In India” push is leaving gaps in Indian defence

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India has become increasingly vulnerable to attacks from its neighbouring countries. A key reason could be prime minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” policy.

The country’s air force, army and navy have been unable to import critical weapon systems to replace the old ones, Bloomberg has reported. By 2026 and 2030, India could face a critical shortage of helicopters and fighter jets, respectively.

This casts a shadow over India’s military preparedness, especially since China and Pakistan have intensified military deployment along their Himalayan borders with India following the clashes with the Indian military in 2020.

In 2014, Modi announced the “Make in India” policy to boost indigenous manufacturing—from mobile phones to fighter jets—and curb imports. But the country does not manufacture enough to meet its military requirements.

Of the nearly 4,000 items banned from being imported in 2020, around 2,700 have been indigenised. The rest will follow suit in phases by 2028.

India is not producing enough weapons

Over the past decade, India’s dependence on the import of defence systems has fallen significantly.

Yet, India was the largest importer of arms in 2017-21, accounting for 11% of the total global arms imports, according to a defence think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“The drop in India’s arms imports is probably a temporary result of its slow and complex procurement process as well as its shift in suppliers,” the SIPRI report (pdf) stated.

Some complex systems like diesel-electric submarines and twin-engine fighters are not being produced locally yet. Even though India is in talks with the US to procure drones, the government is pushing startups to collaborate on innovative solutions like artificial intelligence.

About 25% of the total budget set aside for defence research is allocated to the private sector and startups, a report on India’s defence manufacturing industry showed.

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