The 1.3 million-strong military pruned its original requirement for 800,000 rifles, which would have cost $2.5 billion, to prioritize spending and advance the purchase of more up-to-date equipment, the person said, asking not to be identified as the information is not yet public.
The defense force has 450,000 infantry troopers, of whom only half go into ground battle and use the rifle as their primary weapon. The rest are support soldiers, the person said.
The moves are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's $250 billion push to modernize India's armed forces, as infantry continue to face the brunt of deadly attacks in disputed border areas such as Kashmir and the north-east. Plans to buy new equipment from overseas, however, have been held back by bureaucratic delays and the military's desire to balance the needs of its troops against efforts to build equipment domestically under Modi's 'Make in India' program, a key plank in his drive to boost local manufacturing.
To meet the requirement of the rest of the force, the Army intends to make do with a mix of 400,000 Kalashnikov rifles and the India-made INSAS rifles. The Indian Army's shopping spree for small arms was triggered by its decision to phase out the two decade-old INSAS rifle, introduced in the late 1990s and built by the state-owned Ordnance Factory.
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