Aiming at reducing dependence on imports, the army is focussing on having its equipment such as weapon systems and surveillance devices used to counter Pakistan’s proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir to be indigenised, top officials said.
The move comes amid the Pakistan Army resorting to more than 2,050 unprovoked ceasefire violations, which has killed 21 Indians, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Sunday. India has highlighted its concerns at these violations by Pakistan forces, including ‘in support of cross border terrorist infiltration and targeting Indian civilians and border posts by them’. It has also repeatedly called upon Pakistan to ask its forces to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire understanding and maintain peace along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border.
This year’s ceasefire violations are higher than what it was along the LoC in 2017-860 and last year- 1,629, coming in the backdrop of the Centre abrogating Article 370 and bifurcating J&K into two union territories. Pakistan has also been indulging in ‘calibre escalation’ with the use of artillery guns during such violations.
While the Indian forces are exercising ‘maximum restraint’ to such actions by Pakistan, officials added that the army is much better prepared against its adversaries now. “It is a positive step from the government of giving powers to the vice chiefs of the services to carry out procurements through the revenue and capital routes. We are able to get critical ammunition and spares, because the priority and power to procure is with us. This has made a huge difference in our preparedness, as far as weapons such as sniper rifles, surveillance devices, specialised ammunition and spares are concerned,” an official explained.
The army has made the modernisation of its infantry and Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units- a specialised counter-terrorist force- that are engaged in countering Pakistan’s proxy war, a priority. Officials explained that these forces will be the first ones to be provided with better weapons, surveillance, night observation and protective clothing such as helmets and bulletproof jackets. “We are looking at at all proxy war equipment to be indigenised. We want our night vision devices, surveillance and tactical UAVs (read as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) such as quadcopters to be indigenised,” an official said.
The army is also examining whether engines of its tanks and tracked vehicles such as infantry combat vehicles can be made in India. Other key areas for indigenisation being looked at are having eight to nine types of ammunition manufactured by the private sector. The defence ministry in December 2017 had approved the manufacture of different types of ammunition such as 30mm used by the infantry, 120mm extended range and 40mm grenades to be manufactured by Indian private firms over 10 years. The move is aimed at reducing import dependence.
The army’s focus on indigenisation also comes at ensuring that there are home-made equipment which are tailor made for Indian requirements. While building the capabilities of the Indian defence industry, it will also lead to timely delivery of equipment and ammunition and faster servicing.
But, the army feels that the capabilities of the private sector will need to be improved. “We are looking at how much technology there is in our country. For artillery it is there and it will do well in Transfer-of-Technology. But, the capacity of the private sector to absorb technology is not there. Yes, indigenisation can happen, but it will depend on foreign collaboration. For high end equipment, there needs to be the capacity to absorb technology and for this we need to have R&D. The private sector do need some kind of government support,” explained an official.