India’s plans on making military equipment on its own have a two-pronged story. While orders to the domestic industry and defence public sector undertakings have grown, the import of equipment has also grown in the past five years.
Import of military equipment for the Army, IAF and the Navy has been to the tune of Rs 42,974 crore or nearly $6 billion for the financial year ending March 31, 2019. The import was Rs 29,222 crore or $4.18 billion for the year ending March 2015. These are actual payments that have been made during a fiscal.
The Defence Ministry informed the Rajya Sabha about the spending on foreign sources in a written reply on November 25. The figures are based on the data received from the Comptroller General Defence Accounts (CGDA), the ministry said in its reply.
Payments to international vendors are staggered. This includes some upfront payment followed by instalments. Sweden-based think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in its March 2019 assessment, done for a five-year period (2014-2018), said India was the second-largest importer.
Titled “Trends in International Arms Transfers-2018”, it says, “India was the world’s second-largest importer of major arms in 2014-18 and accounted for 9.5 per cent of the global total.” On India being labelled as the largest importer, the MoD said there was no authoritative and official information on India being the largest importer of weapons as no country officially reveals information on the import of defence equipment.
During a period of five financial years starting April 2014 and ending March 31, 2019, India has spent Rs 1,62,283 crore ($ 23.2 billion) on foreign purchases. Giving out details of indigenous equipment, the MoD said the government in the past five years from 2014-15 to 2018-19 and current year till September 2019 had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to 218 proposals, worth Rs 4,09,244 crore to promote domestic manufacturing.
Also India’s nine public sector companies now collectively have orders of $33.1 billion to make equipment that includes warships, planes, helicopters, tanks and missiles, among other items. The “order book” volume of defence PSUs was told in the Lok Sabha on November 27 and the collective total worked out to be Rs 2,31,931 crore.