Can't Compel Forces To Buy 'Made In India' Weapons, Says Defence Minister

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Can't Compel Forces To Buy 'Made In India' Weapons, Says Defence Minister
New Delhi:  At a prestigious exhibition that seeks to project India as one of the major defence manufacturing hubs, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the army was free to buy defence equipment from anywhere in the world.

While India's military remains the world's biggest buyer of defence equipment, the country is aspiring to become a key manufacturer and eventually an exporter.

To that end, the four-day DefExpo this year is focusing on India's ability to successfully manufacture defence systems - a shift from offering foreign firms a platform to showcase products the country could buy. This year's exhibition has been titled "India: the emerging defence manufacturing hub".

Speaking to reporters at exhibition in Thiruvidanthai near Chennai, Ms Sitharaman said she can't "force the forces" to buy only "Made in India" equipment. While it would be nice if that were to happen, the armed forces were at liberty to pick and choose the equipment they need from anywhere in the world, she said.

In the past, home grown military equipment has been handled with caution. Even top-of-the-line systems like the Tejas fighter planes or the Akash missile system had to undergo years of testing and tweaking before the army expressed satisfaction.

Tejas was inducted by the Air Force in 2016 after a wait of nearly three decades. The supersonic surface-to-air missile Akash was inducted in 2015 after an equally long wait.

For a manufacturer, this becomes a stumbling block, since most buyers take note of whether the host country is successfully using the product.

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"By 2025, India wants to go from being an importer to exporter," for military equipment, said Dr Ajay Kumar, secretary in the Ministry of Defence. With that aim, two defence production corridors -- one in Uttar Pradesh and another in Tamil Nadu -- have already been announced by the government.

Today, the minister said there are "demands" from a few foreign countries to buy missiles from India, but declined to reveal any names. "There would be more opportunities than challenges" to help the country's defence manufacturers earn, she added.

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