Curbing defence imports

Source: This post is created based on the article “Curbing defence imports”, published in Indian Express on 17th May 2023.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3, Changes to Industrial policies, Liberalisation

News: Government has been progressively restricting imports of specified weapons and defence kits in India.

In December 2020 Initial restrictions were imposed on importing line replacement units (LRUs) and some other defence equipment.

In 2022, curbs on import were further expanded. The list contains 2,500 items that have already been indigenised and another 1,238 that will be indigenised within stipulated timelines.

The list which includes indigenised items is called “positive indigenisation lists” or PIL.

What are the questions raised by indigenous defence industry on PILs?

First, what is the need for import restrictions if it is indeed cheaper to design, develop, and manufacture defence products in India. Although MoD has said that it is an assurance to Indian defence manufacturers that they will compete on a level playing field within India.

In the past, MoD has imported the same product from global market, which was developed by private defence industry in India, leading to losses.

Second, whether PILs compromise defence preparedness due to issues of quality and timing. Many of the Indian projects like Arjun tank, the Tejas fighter aircraft were protected from the global competition. It resulted into time and cost overruns. In the face of global competition, it would not have happened.

Third, whether PILs are a suitable method of increasing indigenisation? sophistication level of defence equipment is increasing, therefore indigenization should not be at the cost of military preparedness.

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