Military gets spl powers to expedite weapon purchases of up to Rs300 cr

Published on Jul 16, 2020 12:02 AM IST
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New Delhi: Amid border tensions with China in Ladakh, the government on Wednesday authorised the armed forces to process cases for buying urgently-needed weapons, ammunition and equipment worth up to Rs 300 crore to meet their critical operational requirements, a defence ministry spokesperson said.

The step has been taken to cut delays in the acquisition process. “This [delegation of powers to the armed forces] will shrink the procurement timelines and ensure placement of orders within six months and commencement of deliveries within one year,” the ministry said in a statement.

The decision was taken at a special meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC). Headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh, DAC is the ministry’s apex procurement body.

The ministry said the special meeting was convened “considering the security environment due to the prevailing situation along the northern borders and the need to strengthen the armed forces for the defence of our borders”.

India and China are in the middle of complicated negotiations on kicking off the next stage of disengagement between the Indian and Chinese armies in eastern Ladakh. Senior military commanders from the two sides held an hours-long meeting on Tuesday to discuss the road map for further reducing tensions that escalated when 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops on June 15.

The government is fast-tracking key purchases to plug gaps in the military’s capabilities. DAC on July 2 approved the purchase of weapons and ammunition worth Rs 38,900 crore. The purchases cleared included 33 new fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, which is grappling with a shortage of warplanes.

The proposals green-lighted by the council also included buying of 21 MiG-29s from Russia, 12 new Sukhoi-30 fighters from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, homegrown Astra BVR air-to-air missiles, locally-developed land-attack cruise missile systems with a range of 1,000 km, indigenous rocket systems, and the upgrade of 59 MiG-29 jets.

The cost of military hardware cleared for purchase on July 2 from the domestic industry is pegged at Rs 31,130 crore and the orders are expected to give a push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-Reliant India Movement).

In the midst of the border tensions, the army is also laying the groundwork to buy an additional 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles from the US. This proposed purchase follows an order for 72,400 assault rifles placed with the US last year and is expected to be made by invoking a key clause in India’s arms buying rules that govern speeding up purchases to meet urgent requirements.

India signed the previous order worth Rs 700 crore in early 2019 and the deliveries of all the rifles have been completed. That order was also made through the fast track procedure prescribed in India’s defence procurement rules.

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