Saturday, 15 January 2011

India to limit its foreign defence dependence - still an opportunity for the West

To step ahead in world politics, India needs defence modernisation and limitation of its dependence on foreign suppliers. The West can turn this shift into an opportunity...

With the Chinese having unveiled their latest piece of high-tech military hardware – the stealth bomber – last week, the pressure is well and truly on for India to step up to the mark. It is becoming more and more evident to the Indian authorities that if the country does not develop its own military arsenal, limiting its dependence on foreign-made weapons, it will never manage to evolve into a significant pole in the international order.  However, its defence production is still in its infancy. 

   India has emerged as a major arms purchaser in the past few years.  The pace of acquisition and defence modernisation is nonetheless relatively slow.  India seeks a larger role in global politics; therefore, this large-scale dependence is only holding them back.  According to the Indian Minister of Defence, Mr Antony, foreign suppliers provide about 70% of Indian arms.  India’s government wishes to limit this dependence by attracting private domestic companies into building weapons, while also strengthening state-owned companies.  Last year the government issued repeated policies designed to attract the country’s private firms into making arms for its forces.  So far, lack of policy clarity has restricted the participation of the private companies.  Of the 30% of defence supplies procured domestically, the private sector barely supplies 9%.

   One recent development in the right direction is the launch of the light combat aircraft Tejas, which is considered worthy of induction into the Indian air force.  It just received its initial operational clearance certificate, while more aircrafts are about to be inducted by the end of the year. Tejas are expected to replace the Russian MiGs, however some analysts are not yet convinced.

   It is in the West’s best interest to have a strong India in the region, a country that is becoming a trustworthy ally.  Currently, India is spending about $11 billion on buying arms not only from US and Israel, but also from Russia and others.  Western countries can urge India to limit the dependence on Eastern suppliers, and at the same time, can invest in R&D, which is a sector within India that definitely needs a boost.

by Madalena Papadopoulou

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, 14/01/11, accessed at

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