India bans import of 101 defence items for self-reliance: Rajnath Singh

Embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024. | FIle photo: PTI
India will suspend the import of 101 defence items to boost indigenous production, said the government on Sunday, calling its decision a "big push" for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India) campaign.

The "embargoed items" include high technology weapon systems like artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, and transport aircraft, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Twitter.

"The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024," Singh said.

"Our aim is to apprise the Indian defence industry about the anticipated requirements of the Armed Forces so that they are better prepared to realise the goal of indigenisation."

The list of items was prepared after consultations with the armed forces, state-owned and private companies to "assess current and future capabilities of the Indian industry for manufacturing various ammunition & equipment within India”, he said.

India traditionally buys military equipment from Russia, but is increasingly purchasing from the United States and Israel, news agency Reuters reported. Between April 2015 and August 2020, India’s defence services had contracted around Rs 3.5 trillion worth of items that are now on the hold list.

The government estimates around Rs 4 trillion worth of orders will now be placed with the domestic industry over the next five to seven years.

The defence ministry has also split the capital procurement budget for 2020/21 between domestic and foreign procurement routes, Singh said.

"A separate budget head has been created with an outlay of nearly Rs 52,000 crore for domestic capital procurement in the current financial year."

Congress party criticism

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram rejected Singh’s announcement about indigenisation as "high sounding jargon".

The defence minister promised a "bang" on a Sunday morning and ended with a "whimper", Chidambaram said in a series of tweets.

"The only importer of defence equipment is the Defence Ministry. Any import embargo is really an embargo on oneself," said Chidambaram, a former home minister.

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