Weapon suppliers appear to be getting the drift of PM Narendra Modi’s intentions to speed up defence indigenisation and transform the country from the world’s biggest arms importer into an export powerhouse.
France has done the math to make a renewed pitch for a stalled Rs 20,000-crore deal to co-develop a short-range surface-to-air missile (SR-SAM) — Maitri — in India, under a government-to-government programme. Negotiations for the project were completed in 2011.
It is learnt that France has conveyed to India that the proposed deal would have an export potential of Rs 45,000 crore and 75% of the contract value would be plowed into the indigenous sector.
To be developed for the navy and air force, the 15-km range SR-SAM could be considered to provide multilayered air defence capability to Indian warships, including aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
Vital air defence systems are missing on INS Kolkata and the Vikramaditya as the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM), being co-developed with Israel, is not operational yet.
The French proposal reflects a rising acceptance among arms suppliers that India will ink big deals only if it helps bring in new technologies and build up indigenous capabilities.
India and the US appointed high-ranking officers to explore opportunities for co-development and co-production of state-of-the-art weapon systems during US defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to New Delhi from August 7 to 9.
India spent Rs 83,458 crore on importing weapons during the last three years, with the US emerging as the top supplier with orders worth Rs 32,615 crore, followed by Russia (Rs 25,363 crore) and France (Rs 12,046 crore).