Some of India’s biggest companies are pouring billions of dollars into manufacturing guns, ships and tanks for the country’s military, buoyed by the new government’s commitment to upgrade its armed forces using domestic factories.
India, the world’s largest arms importer, will spend USD 250 billion in the next decade on kit, analysts estimate, to upgrade its Soviet-era military and narrow the gap with China, which spends USD 120 billion a year on defence. Under the last government, procurement delays and a spate of operational accidents – especially dogging the navy – raised uncomfortable questions over whether India’s armed forces are capable of defending its sea lanes and borders.
Even before his landslide election victory in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to assert India’s military prowess and meet the security challenge posed by a rising China and long-running tensions with Pakistan. Within weeks of becoming prime minister, he boosted defence spending by 12 percent to around USD 37 billion for the current fiscal year and approved plans to allow more foreign investment into local industry to jump-start production.
Launching a new, Indian-built naval destroyer last week, Modi said: “My government has taken important steps in improving indigenous defence technology … We can guarantee peace if our military is modernised.” This build-up comes as Southeast Asian nations expand their own defence industries, spurred by tensions with China. India, reliant on a state defence industry that often delivers late and over budget, risks being caught flat-footed.