GD – Import of Weapons

Group Discussion Topic

We are aware that India is one of the largest importer of weapons for its defence requirements. In your opinion, what is the most important reason for India to import arms and ammunition from abroad?

Advanced Technology
Urgent Requirement
Foreign Policy Requirements

As per Stockholm International Peace Research institute’s list, India has been the largest defence importer in the world for last seven years. To meet its defence demands, it imports around 60% of its defence requirement from various countries like Israel, USA, Russia, France or the UK.

Advanced Technology

Finally, we need to realise that there is no second place in war. Our military assets must be at par or better than with our enemy’s assets irrespective of where it is made and who makes it. Therefore, importing updated technology is an absolutely essential for future battles.

Lack of Critical Technology in areas like Artificial Intelligence

Our country lacks technology in certain critical areas. Only when we gain the ability to manufacture items like the silicon chips we stop importing. Until we develop expertise in technologies like artificial intelligence, we would be forced to import advanced technology weapons.

Core research and Development is inadequate in India

We don’t have scientific or technological expertise in many areas of core research. Examples are like semiconductor processing or single crystal generation. These technologies are also listed under US export control list. So our R&D agencies cannot buy those technologies irrespective of the money we are willing to spend in acquiring them.

Everything from unmanned combat vehicles to stealth technology is redefining the way we fight. Weapon systems using stealth technology cannot be produced without core research in areas like material science in our universities. Hence we have to import such weapon platforms.

Research and Development is a very costly affair for IndianDefence Industries

Development of a fifth generation stealth fighter or a nuclear submarine would involve billions of dollars and many years of research. No country can excel in a technology instantaneously it has to be gradual step by step process. Until we reach the excellence we need to sustain and to sustain we need to buy fighter aircrafts like rafale from developed countries.

Lack of Technological institutes dedicated to Research and Development

IISc is the only institute in India which was primarily established for the purpose of research. IIT’s are more of graduation school and IIT students are more focused on getting a higher salaried job. Just a few students who are interested in high quality research. This lack of suitable brain power forces us to import arms and ammunition from abroad.

Brain Drain is leading to lack of required Technology

Due to brain drain, the brain power required for core research is sadly lacking in our country. The few students who are interested in research go abroad for higher education and research. In a way brain drain contributes to our requirement to import advanced weapon systems.

Importing weapons helps in improving our Defence Technology

When we import, most of the time we ask for a transfer of technology that grants us the knowledge to make our designs better. Like in the case of AK 203 rifles, rather than designing everything from scratch, it pays to have help or to have a model on which we can base our designs on. Therefore, we end up importing lots of arms and ammunition.

When using foreign equipments, we get exposed to the latest designs and trends, the associated problems with their equipment, design flaws and important stuff. Operating Nuclear submarines like INS Chakra, helps in developing some expertise in certain fields. This helps us from committing the same errors during our own development process. This is one of the reasons for importing arms from abroad.

Lack of Coordination leads to inadequate development

The coordination which should be there between a developer and user, lacks in case of DRDO and defense forces. For example, may defence chiefs have publicly commented about DRDO in project delays like that of LCA. Obviously, there is a huge trust deficit as well as communication gap, which adversely affects the overall process of development. Lack of co-ordination leads to the need for importing large quantities of advanced weapon systems.

Indian policy makers do not invest in readily available defence technologies

As a policy, we are interested in developing only those defense technology where the global trade is low. We can observe that those technology which cannot be bought have been developed in India. Examples are those of Nuclear weapons, Anti-ballistic missile defense and spy satellites. We beleive in importing other equipments which are available for sale in the market.

Even small countries like Israel and Korea have focussed on their defence industry with massive support from Govt. Their Govts give them massive money for tie up with best universities and companies across the world do joint research projects. Since we do not do such an exercise we are unable to develop the required technologies leading to large imports.

Urgent Requirements

Indians had inherited a poor, illiterate and an unskilled country during independence. India was completely isolated from Industrial Revolution due to Colonisation. The scant resources after independence had to be prioritised for agricultural, water resources and infrastructure like roads and power generation. Therefore, we could not invest in defence manufacturing industries forcing us to import for our urgent requirements.

Urgency due to absence of private sector participation

Just like many heavy industries like Iron and Steel, which needed heavy investments, the complete defence sector were under Public sector. In fact, until recently, our private sector has been reluctant to participate in defence production due to the huge initial investment and a long gestation period. The absence of private sector in defence makes us to import for our urgent requirements.

Urgency due to lack of our manufacturing capabilities

Bureaucratic hassles and lack of incentives to innovate have stiffled our defence PSUs from innovation. Our public sector undertakings are just not capable enough to meet the urgent requirements of the defence forces on time due to red-tapism. This inturn makes us to import urgently required weapons from foreign firms.

Urgent Requirements due to lessons learnt from Kargil War of 1999

During the Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, India faced an urgent need to import weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment to bolster its defense capabilities in the mountainous terrain. This led to emergency procurements of artillery guns, surveillance equipment, and other critical resources.

India-China Border Tensions requres India to be prepared for a war

Periodic border disputes and tensions between India and China have prompted India to enhance its military preparedness. In response to such situations, India has imported weapons and defense systems like aircraft, missiles, and surveillance equipment to reinforce its defense posture in the region.

Urgency due to the fallout of turmoil in Afghanistan

The turmoil in Afghanistan is likely to intensify with the withdrawal of the US-led forces. The next arena of conflict between Pakistan and India could well be Afghanistan. The Pakistan army, in collaboration with the Taliban, is likely to make all efforts to oust India from Afghanistan. India would obviously resist all such attempts by Pakistan to dislodge it from Afghanistan, and this may lead to a new military confrontation between the two countries.

Mumbai Terror Attacks of 2008 has increased the urgency to import weapons

Following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India realized the need to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities. It led to urgent imports of advanced weaponry, including surveillance systems, night vision devices, and communication equipment, to strengthen its counter-terrorism operations.

Urgency due to Rising Maritime Challenges in the Indian Ocean

As India seeks to protect its maritime interests and maintain security in the Indian Ocean region, it has pursued imports of naval assets like submarines, warships, and surveillance aircraft. Geopolitical developments, such as increasing piracy activities or the expansion of naval capabilities of neighboring countries, have influenced these import decisions.

Increased Chinese Military Activities in the Indo-pacific have increased the urgency

China’s growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, including border disputes and infrastructure development near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), has raised concerns for India’s national security. This has prompted India to expedite the import of weapons and defense systems to strengthen its defense preparedness and maintain a credible deterrence against potential threats.

Foreign Policy Considerations

India has always had good friends with those who were willing to sell weapons. For example, we have friendly ties with Russia, USA, Israel, UK and France. One of the ways to obtain the co-operation of foreign countries is by importing arms and ammunition from their industries. Therefore, India imports weapons to improve ties with major countries.

India has been facing ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, which have presently disturbed peace in the subcontinent. Chinese intrusions into Indian territory both in eastern and western sectors of Sino- Indian boundary are posing new threats to peace in the region.

Examples of Foreign Policy being guided by defence imports

When you buy products especially Defense product from another country you establish a diplomatic and trustworthy relationship with that particular country which might help us during hard times. Of course no country helps another without its own agenda in place. For example look at how USA has helped Pakistan and USSR for India during the 1971 war. Our country also buys weapons from abroad to solicit co-operation during crisis situations.

Advanced Nations also connect Foreign Pilocies with defence Imports

India actually is not the only nation to tie foreign policy with defence imports. Even advanced countries like USA uses the FREMM Franco-Italian class of frigates to fulfill their frigate requirement. Another example is that of Russia which had purchased the French Mistral class amphibious ships. China buys billions of dollars of arms from Russia despite being a major defence manufacturer. On the similar lines, Indian imports too helps in our international relations.

Foreign Policy changes after import of defence equipment in the Indian context

Same is true for several other countries in the European Union. We were never in USA’s favorite list of countries and then after nuclear bomb test in 1998. USA had put us in complete export restriction which virtually prohibit us to buy any high technology equipment. That restriction was lifted only in 2008 after Dr. Manmohan Singh Govt signed nuclear treaty. In a way the other countries force us to buy their weapons at an exorbitant price.

Even today, over a third of the components used in Tejas, including the current American-built engines, are imported. Sanctions imposed by the US after India conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 nearly brought the project to a grinding halt for it cut off access to certain imported technologies. Hence we balance out our domestic defence industries with imports from other countries due to such arm twisting techniques of foreign countries.

Indian foreign policy seeks to balance out our equations with competing nations

Since we are non-aligned, we buy arms and ammunition from both from Russia and the Western countries. We are aware that we could face an arms embargo from either blocks at any time. Therefore, it increases, in fact doubles our import list of weapon systems.

India’s military budget is mainly used for keeping it a regional power via purchases of foreign weapons. India is using it’s large military budget to stay geopolitically relevant by being a regional power. India’s primary goal is to diversify purchases from various importers by staying neutral.