India, the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, wants to diversify suppliers
India is looking to domestic companies for military gear and ammunition and to Eastern European countries, as Russia’s world’s largest buyer of arms is looking for alternative suppliers at a time when Moscow is at war with Ukraine and facing sanctions.
New Delhi has long spoken of diversifying suppliers to its huge armed forces and even building more equipment at home, achieving new emergency targets since the Russian invasion, two government officials and a defense source said.
India has identified Rs 25.15 billion ($ 324 million) worth of defense equipment that domestic companies want to build and avoid buying abroad this year, according to an online platform where the defense ministry lists its needs.
“The current world order and geopolitical scenario, which is extremely turbulent, has also taught us a lesson,” said Air Marshal Vivas Pandey, who is in charge of maintenance operations for the Indian Air Force.
“If we want to ensure security and stability … the only option is to establish a fully self-sufficient or self-sustaining supply chain system within the country,” Pandey told defense manufacturers in New Delhi.
However, he did not specifically mention the conflict in Ukraine, which Moscow called a “special military operation.”
The Indian Air Force is looking for equipment like ejection pods for Russian-designed Sukhoi fighter jets and propellers for Ukrainian-made Antonov transport aircraft, another document shows.
Within three years, Pandey said, the Air Force’s goal was to source all tires and batteries for critical aircraft fleets from domestic companies like MRF.
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said India wanted to bring home more than half of its defense equipment.
The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether there were concerns over India’s reliance on Moscow for military hardware and the war in Ukraine and Russia’s slow progress.
Brahma Chelani, a defense and strategic affairs analyst in New Delhi, says Russian equipment has served India well in the past, although in recent years it has increased purchases from countries such as the United States, France and Israel.
“Defense transfers are always a slow evolutionary process. You can’t change suppliers overnight,” he said.
India employs 1.38 million people in its armed forces and is one of the world’s largest arms importers, spending $ 12.4 billion between 2018 and 2021, compared to Russia’s $ 5.51 billion, according to the SIPRI arms transfer database.
The Indian Army is equipped with Russian tanks and Kalashnikov rifles. Its air force uses Sukhoi fighter jets and Mi-17 transport helicopters, while the navy’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya was formerly part of the Russian navy.
In recent months, some of India’s western partners, including Britain and the United States, have indicated their willingness to increase their defense proposals in New Delhi.
The military, which has spent considerable effort defending India’s long border with China and Pakistan, has fought both neighbors, working in a three-pronged approach to maintaining readiness, a second government official said.
The government is examining whether Eastern European countries can use weapons and platforms like the Indian military and supply extra supplies and ammunition.
“If (Russian) supply lines are cut off, we have alternatives,” said the official, who declined to be named because the matter was sensitive.
Indian authorities are also urging Russian counterparts for some key projects already agreed upon, the official added.
These include the supply of S-400 missile systems and a contract to build more than 600,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles at a new plant in northern India.
Some Indian companies are already feeling the effects of the pressure of diversification and nationalization.
In the PLR system, a joint venture between Adani Group and Israel Weapon Industries, which makes small arms in India, has increased the search for assault rifles since the Ukraine conflict, an industry source said.
The PLR system offers Israel-designed Galilee ACE assault rifles as a replacement for Russian Kalashnikov weapons.
“The demand for rifles is also from the states and the Central Armed Police Force,” the source said, referring to the talks as private. “Right now, none of them can get it from outside.”
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