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New Delhi: India has announced a fresh list of about 1,000 military items, including replacement units, subsystems and spares, which will come under a phased import ban between December 2023 and December 2029, officials aware of the matter said on Sunday.

The move marks the latest push for self-reliance in manufacturing for items used in fighter planes, trainer aircraft, warships and different types of ammunition.

This is the fourth positive indigenisation list of strategically important components used by defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) that have been placed under an import ban over the past two years. Three similar lists were published by the defence ministry in December 2021, March 2022 and August 2022.

The new list consists of 928 items, with an import substitution value of 715 crore, the ministry said in a statement.

“To promote ‘Atmanirbharta’ in defence and minimise imports by the DPSUs, the defence ministry has approved the 4th positive indigenisation lists of 928 strategically important LRUs/sub-systems/spares and components, including high-end materials and spares, with an import substitution value worth 715 crore," the statement said.

These items will only be procured from local industry after the prescribed timelines, the officials said. The latest list seeks to promote domestic production of several parts of Sukhoi-30 and Jaguar fighter jets, Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40) planes, magazine firefighting systems on board warships, and gas turbine generators.

The components and subsystems in the previous lists include several items for fighter jets, Dornier-228 planes, multiple systems for submarines, equipment for T-90 and Arjun tanks, BMP-II infantry combat vehicles, warships and submarines, and anti-tank missiles.

About 2,500 items in the previous three lists have been indigenised, and 1,238 have been identified for manufacturing in India in phases till 2028-29, officials said. Of these 1,238 items, 310 have been indigenised so far, they added.

The DPSUs will undertake indigenisation of these items through different routes under the Make in India initiative, and in-house development through the capabilities of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and private Indian industry, thus providing impetus to the growth in economy, enhanced investment in defence, and reduction in import dependence of the DPSUs, the ministry said.

This will augment the design capabilities of the domestic defence industry by involving academia and research institutions, it added.

India has employed a two-pronged approach to achieve indigenisation through import bans. One approach relates to banning the import of weapons and systems such as fighter jets, warships, helicopters and artillery guns, while the other covers subsystems, spares and components that are part of bigger weapon platforms.

As part of the former, India has published four other lists that have imposed a phased import ban on 411 different types of weapons and platforms including light weight tanks, naval utility helicopters, artillery guns, missiles, destroyers, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, light transport aircraft, long-range land-attack cruise missiles, basic trainer aircraft, airborne early warning and control systems, and multi-barrel rocket launchers.

These lists were announced during the past three years—in August 2020, May 2021, April 2022 and October 2022. Import substitution of ammunition, which is a recurring requirement, has been given special emphasis in these lists.

India has taken a raft of measures over the past 4-5 years to boost self-reliance in defence. Apart from a series of phased import bans, these steps include creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware and increasing foreign direct investment from 49% to 74%.

Around 1 trillion was set aside for domestic procurement in this year’s defence budget, compared to 84,598 crore, 70,221 crore and 51,000 crore in the three previous years.

India’s arms imports fell 11% between 2013-17 and 2018-22, but the country is still the world’s top importer of military hardware, said a report published by Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in March.

Along with cutting dependence on imports, India has sharpened its focus on strengthening its position as an exporter military hardware. Making its presence felt in the highly competitive global defence market, India exported military hardware worth 15,920 crore in 2022-23, the highest ever and a tenfold increase since 2016-17, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April attributing the surge to enthusiasm for Make in India, and key reforms to spur growth in the sector.

India is currently exporting military hardware to around 85 countries. It includes missiles, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, surveillance systems and a variety of radars. Weapons and systems that hold export potential include the Tejas light combat aircraft, different types of helicopters, artillery guns, Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, Akash surface-to-air missile system, tanks, sonars and radars.

India has a good strategy and action plan in place, backed by forward-looking policies, to ensure self-reliance in defence, and boost the country’s status as a net exporter of weapons in the coming years, military affairs expert retired lieutenant general Vinod Bhatia earlier said.

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Updated: 15 May 2023, 12:22 AM IST
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