Full article at link below Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine From assault rifles to main battle tanks, Indian defence relies largely on imports even after years of research on indigenous production, says Rahul Bedi INDIAâ€™S PENCHANT for a membership to the elite, international â€˜clubsâ€™ that operate nuclear-powered submarines (SSN) and indigenously developed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) is indeed laudable. But it also connotes overreach; a misplaced sense of priorities and the proclivity to largely ignore the indigenous development of basic, operationally vital armaments and ammunition at a time when all three services â€” especially the army â€” were wrestling with bureaucratic red tape and corruption scandals to modernise and upgrade most of their ageing assets. This includes indigenously developing essential small arms systems like credible assault rifles (ARs) and close quarter battle (CQB) carbines for the armyâ€™s 359 infantry battalions and 66 associated Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units deployed on counter-insurgency operations (COIN). These primary shortfalls leave the army hopelessly import-dependent, not only for advanced platforms but also for its cutting-edge, everyday requirements. Defence Minister AK Antony admitted as much in Parliament recently, when he lamented the â€œshameful and dangerousâ€ situation in which India was compelled to import 70 percent of its military equipment despite repeated governmental assertions claiming self-reliance in this regard. But the tortuous and hugely expensive saga of the army abandoning the DRDO-designed and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)-built Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56mm AR after expending hundreds of crores on it over the past two decades for an imported model, best illustrates the domestic military-industrial sectorsâ€™ gross inefficiency. It also demonstrates the Ministry of Defenceâ€™s (MoDâ€™s) consequential predilection for massive imports. . . . . Alongside, their monopoly resulted in supplying problematic, and at times, even unsafe equipment to their â€˜dedicatedâ€™ customers at hugely inflated rates. For instance, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had for years castigated Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for spending twice the amount to build Su-30 MKI multi-role fighters at its Bengaluru unit, than it would have cost to import them directly. And in August last year, Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament that each upgraded version of DRDO-designed and OFB-built Arjun MK II main battle tank (MBT)would cost the army an astronomical Rs 376 crore, or $7.4 million. Comparably, the Russian T90S MBTsâ€” 647 of which the Indian Army imported as fully-assembled kits from 2001 onwards, and another 1,000 to be built locally under licence at the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi near Chennai to equip the bulk of its 59 armoured formations â€” were acquired for $2.2-2.5 million per unit, a third of the Arjunâ€™s price. Successive parliamentary defence and other watchdog committees have revealed in excoriating reports, often ignored by the media or reported cursorily, that technology transfers by overseas vendors were largely symbolic, adding little or nothing to Indiaâ€™s overall capacity-building or enhancing self-reliance. Domestic political considerations too perpetuated inefficiencies and casualness in the DRDO, OFB and the DPSUs, as all political parties feared that disbanding, streamlining or even privatising their combined workforce of more than 1.4 million for greater efficiency would trigger the disintegration of loyal â€˜vote banksâ€™. â€œThe DPP (that monitors the OFB and DPSUs) is solely responsible for the current pitiable condition of the indigenous defence industry,â€ says Major General (retd) Mrinal Suman, known analyst on offsets and the military-industrial sector. The army, he declared, was forced by the DPP to accept poor-quality equipment and ordnance, resulting in extensive loss of life and adversely impacting the militaryâ€™s overall war-preparedness. Scores of soldiers had died when faulty OFB-supplied mines exploded whilst being laid during Operation Parakram in 2002 as some of their fuses, it later transpired, had been supplied by a toy manufacturer. â€œIt all needs to changeâ€, says Gen Suman resignedly.