Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said that India is not happy with the label of world’s largest importer of arms.
“India has third-largest armed forces in the world. We are also one of the largest importers of defence equipment in the world. This definitely is not a label we are happy with,” Jaitley said at the India-Russia Military Industrial Conference in New Delhi.
Jaitley, who took charge as defence minister for the second time since 2014, said Russia will have a “comparative advantage” in partnering with India in the ‘Make in India’ programme.
“Russia being our oldest partner in defence hardware and equipment, Russian companies will have a comparative advantage in partnering with Indian ones for realising ‘Make in India’ potential in defence production,” the minister said.
As per the latest report of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the world’s largest arms importing country accounting for 13 per cent of global arms imports between 2012 to 2016. Russia supplied 68 per cent of the arms India imported in this period.
Jaitley said Indian and Russian companies can partner to produce spare parts and maintenance of Russian equipment in the Indian inventory.
“With regard to maintenance and life-cycle support also, it is our endeavour that most components and spare parts required for maintaining the platforms, which have been procured from Russian companies, are manufactured by Indian companies through technology transfer or through joint ventures with Russian companies.
“It will ensure serviceability of platforms is improved and we do not lose critical time in repairing and maintaining these equipments,” he said.
“Relations with Russia are a key pillar of India’s foreign policy and Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested strategic partner of India for the last 70 years,” the minister said.
He said the bilateral relations have evolved from one of seller and buyer to a point where both are indulging in joint research and development.
“India has a longstanding and wide-ranging cooperation with Russia in defence. India-Russia Military Technical Cooperation has graduated from a simple buyer-seller relation to the one involving joint research, development and production of advanced defence systems. BrahMos missile system as well as the licensed production of SU-30 in India are examples of such flagship cooperation,” he said.
Minister for Industry and Trade of Russian Federation, Denis Manturov, meanwhile pointed out that Russia is the only country sharing technology with India.
The two-day India-Russia Military Industrial Conference, which started on Friday, has been organised by the Department of Defence Production.
The conference primarily aims at addressing the issues related to lifecycle support and maintenance of major Russian-origin equipment and platforms like the SU-30 MKI aircraft, Mi-17 helicopters, MiG-29K aircraft, aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and T-90 tanks.
(With IANS inputs)