India said Sunday that it will ban the imports of 101 items of military equipment in an effort to boost local production and improve self-reliance in weapons manufacturing.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said the government is planning to progressively implement the embargo on select military imports between 2020 and 2024.
The military equipment includes some high technology weapon systems and range from assault rifles and artillery to transport aircraft and light combat helicopters, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“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,” Singh wrote on Twitter. “This is a big step towards self-reliance in defence.”
In February, the Indian Ministry of Defense earmarked $5.2 billion for the design and development of indigenous military equipment. At the same time, the ministry approved purchasing additional fighter jets from Russia.
During U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit, later in February, the two countries signed a deal for India to buy more than $3 billion in advanced military equipment, including helicopters.
For years Indian authorities have been pushing not just to diversify the country’s sources of military equipment, but to invest in domestically designed and manufactured equipment.
In May, India announced that global companies could invest up to 74 percent in the country’s defense manufacturing units, up from 49 percent, without requiring any government approval. It was hoped the new policy would attract foreign companies with high-end technologies to set up their bases in the country in collaboration with local industries.
The government then announced that India would stop importing weapons that can be made domestically, in line with the vision to make the Indian economy self-reliant amid the coronavirus crisis.
India, a major buyer of military equipment, had depended largely on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. But it has been diversifying its purchases by opting for U.S. equipment as well.
India was the third-biggest military spender in the world last year after the United States and China, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in a report released in April.
By the Associated Press with additional reporting by The Diplomat.