New Delhi (Sputnik) — The modernization of India's armed forces has progressed at a rapid pace over the last three years, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government promptly cleared as a huge number of defense procurements that had been stalled by the previous regime.
According to latest official figures, the Indian government signed 23 contracts worth $12.1 billion with foreign vendors in the last financial year, ending March 2017, with the twin objective of addressing shortages and continuing upgrades.
"The Indian Defense Ministry signed 23 contracts with foreign vendors worth $12.1 billion during the last financial year," Subhash Bhamre, India's minister of state for defense said in Parliament. The figure was $4.3 billion in 2015-16 and $1.69 billion in 2014-15.
Modi took over as prime minister after the National Democratic Alliance's landslide victory in the May 2014 general elections. Under the previous regime lead by the United Progressive Alliance, modernization plans for the army moved sluggishly.
One of Modi's main visions has been ‘Make in India' — a program that aims to enhance India's own defense production capability by ensuring the transfer of technology, eventually reducing import dependency in the defense sector.
However, government records show that there has been minuscule ($0.165 million) foreign direct investment in the defense sector in last three years. In the absence of technological know-how, India continues to be dependent on the import of critical defense equipment including aircraft, rockets, missiles, artillery guns and ammunition.
For the fiscal year 2017-18, the Indian government has allocated approximately $13 billion out of the total defense budget of $41.1 billion for the procurement of defense equipment. Earlier this week, the Defense Ministry asked for an additional fund of $3 billion, citing the need for additional purchases of critical ammunition. The country's apex auditing body, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its recent report highlighted the fact that the ammunition currently possessed by India's defense forces is not even adequate for a full-scale war of about 10 days.
The Defense Ministry's demand is yet to be responded to by the Finance Ministry, which is facing a tough time as the country's fiscal deficit is already touching a record 80.8 percent of the budgeted target for the current fiscal year.