India currently imports more weaponry than any other country in the world, but now it is pushing ahead in its quest to develop its local arms manufacturing industry, as the New York Times reports:
India’s defense minister, A. K. Antony, said at a news conference during the exposition that the country’s reliance on foreign arms makers must end. “A growing India still depending on foreign companies for a substantial part of our defense needs is not a happy situation,” he said.Whether India can break its import addiction is anyone’s guess, but many arms analysts are skeptical. India is expected to spend about $11 billion this year buying weapons from abroad, despite decades of effort by the government to create a domestic military manufacturing sector.“I don’t think there’s another country in the world that has tried as hard as India to make weapons and failed as thoroughly,” said Pieter D. Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which studies global security.
Sure, everyone would prefer to buy local, especially if it’s cheaper to do so, but India has more urgent matters in mind. We wrote on Thursday that China significantly increased its military budget as it moves to assert itself in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. India, in competition with China, doesn’t intend to lag behind. Not only is India directly threatened by China in the Indo-Chinese frontier regions of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh (both countries view the region as their rightful territory) but China is also making inroads to the Indian Ocean, a region that India considers its domain. On top of that, with the war in Afghanistan winding down, India is wary that militant groups fighting there will again move to cause trouble in Kashmir, with Pakistani support. India needs arms, and fast.That’s why it is exploring all options to enhance and improve its military. India’s move to develop its local arms manufacturing isn’t just a policy of economic nationalism; it highlights a desperation to compete in an increasingly militarized neighborhood.