India clears $13.1 billion worth of defense projects

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NEW DELHI: India’s Hindu nationalist government on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) cleared long-delayed projects worth $13.1 billion to modernize the nation’s ageing Soviet-era military hardware and boost its domestic defense industry, a report said.

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The move underscores the desire of the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to update the country’s military as it looks to defend itself, especially after recent deadly border clashes with Pakistan and a tense stand-off with Chinese troops.

The country has also been seeking to shore up its defense capabilities to counter a military build-up by an increasingly assertive China.

The Defense Acquisition Council on Saturday approved defense procurement proposals worth $13.1 billion (800 billion rupees), many of which were longstanding, at a meeting chaired by Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, the Press Trust of India said.

India, the second most populous nation in the world, is in the midst of a $100-billion defense upgrade program. It cleared proposals worth nearly $3.5 billion in June.

Defense ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

India is the world’s largest arms importer with the United States recently overtaking Russia as its biggest arms supplier.

But slow procurement over decades and the collapse of a string of defense deals during the previous center-left Congress party government’s rule has left the military short of key equipment.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has been pushing for greater indigenization of the military industry as India imports around 70 percent of its defense hardware.

In August, Modi urged India to build up its military might to the point that no other country “dare cast an evil eye” on the South Asian nation.

He also said that India had to stop relying heavily on defense imports and focus instead on local research, design and manufacture.

In line with that, among the major proposals to receive approval were a 500-billion-rupee tender to indigenously build six submarines for the navy and purchase 8,356 Israeli guided missiles as well as 12 Dornier aircraft, PTI said citing defense ministry officials.

Modi’s new government has raised the foreign investment cap on India’s defense industries to speed up modernization of the military.

India has fought three wars with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

AFP

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