India has announced it would ramp up its production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles and airborne early warning systems, to offset any potential shortfall from its main supplier Russia. India depends on Russia for nearly 60% of its defence equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added to doubts about future supplies.
India’s Defence Ministry has so far identified a “positive indigenization list” of more than 300 items with a timeline for banning imports to help local manufacturers meet the requirements of the armed forces in the coming years. India’s air force has more than 410 Soviet and Russian fighters with a mix of imported and license-built platforms, including Su30s, MiG-21s and MiG 29s. All require Russian spares and components. India also has Russian submarines, tanks, helicopters, submarines, frigates and missiles.
Sanctions on Moscow could jeopardize India’s recent $375 million BrahMos cruise missile export order from the Philippines. Rahul Bedi, a defence analyst, said India is awaiting deliveries of Russian missile systems, frigates, an Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine and assault rifles. India’s government is pushing for greater self-reliance, but India lacks a strong industrial base for military equipment. “I would say if you really want to see significant progress it will take at least five years,” he said.
Contracts with foreign suppliers
Nearly 60 offset contracts worth over $13 billion by 2027 for purchases of fighter aircraft and weapons from the United States, France, Russia and Israel have been signed by India’s Defence Ministry. The deals require 30-50% of the contract value to be returned to India as offsets or re-investments. An offset involves an obligation by a foreign supplier to buy a certain amount of goods from the importing country as part of the contract.
The government announced in the 2022-23 budget that 68% of all capital defence procurement would be for indigenous manufacturers. Major Indian purchases from the United States included long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport aircraft, missiles and drones.
In 2020, India announced that foreign companies can invest up to 74% in its defence manufacturing units, up from 49%, without any government approval. The aim is to attract foreign companies with advanced technologies to set up factories in India in collaboration with local companies.
India’s dependence on Russian weapons
For all the success of the U.S.-led campaign to isolate Russia on the world stage, India has stood out as one major democracy that has been reluctant to criticize Vladimir Putin — and billions of dollars in weapons purchases mean that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.