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If shortages of tank ammunition, artillery and air defence systems—memorably detailed in then-army chief General V.K. Singh’s leaked letter to the prime minister in 2012—are alarming, the army’s inability to field even effective assault rifles should make the magnitude of the problem clear.
For the second year in a row, the army has rejected an indigenously built rifle due to poor performance in trials. These are part of the search to replace the army’s current INSAS mainstays—suboptimal themselves, given their unreliability.
To the Narendra Modi government’s credit, it has made significant policy shifts for retooling the leviathan that is the state-owned defence industry—easing norms for foreign direct investment in defence manufacturing, streamlining the stifling bureaucracy of the procurement process and encouraging the private sector.
But given the enormity of the task, this is only the beginning. And the delays in the defence ministry’s strategic partner policy which have hamstrung the navy’s fleet expansion, for instance, show how much remains to be done.