In a bid to boost defence cooperation, the Indian Government has asked the armed forces to compile a list of obsolete military equipment that can be refurbished at minimal cost and gifted to friendly countries. Specific military platforms being looked at are artillery guns, armoured vehicles, helicopters, naval patrol vehicles and radar systems that are obsolete or nearing obsolescence.
In a report published by The Indian Express, the move have taken by surprise senior army and air force officers, who say much of the equipment that can be classified as obsolete is currently in use due to lack of funds. This move by the Government will also be creating a foundational base to the defence export ambitions under the Make in India initiative.
Requested by Smaller Nations
During various high-level visits to friendly foreign countries, many have projected a requirement for second-hand military equipment for their armed forces on a gift basis.
These requests have come from some countries of the Indian Ocean Region, some African countries, Central Asian Republics and the Asia-Pacific region.
So far, India has only gifted used Mi helicopters to Afghanistan, although it has provided indigenous smaller equipment such as patrol boats to some countries in its neighbourhood.
India has been a defence exporter to Nepal, Afghanistan, Oman, Malaysia, Vietnam and also to U.K, Israel and Russia. India has exported its INSAS rifles to Oman and Nepal. It has also exported HAL Druv to Mauritius, Nepal and Ecuador and also sold Cheetal, Mi-24 and Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan.
Fulfilling the requests of these countries will open way for deeper strategic engagement with these countries. It will also pave way for long-lasting partnership through deploying training teams, offering special courses in India as well as supply of spares, repair work being carried out in India over the long term.
It will also help to create base for Indian defence industry to expand export of newer defence platforms, which have been made in India to these countries.
No Spare Machinery
A senior IAF officer told The Indian Express that it had no spare helicopters to be gifted after it handed over three Mi helicopters to Afghanistan in 2015. The official said the IAF was still using four-decade old Pechora missiles, which are obsolete but have not been replaced due to the limited defence budget this year.
A senior Army officer also expressed surprise at the preparation of a list of equipment to be gifted at a time when the armed forces is still struggling with obsolete equipment.
As a matter of fact, 68% of equipment is obsolete and no funds have been allocated to replace them.
On the lines of EDA Programme
This proposal is similar to the Excess Defense Assets (EDA) programme of the United States where it transfers excess defence equipment to chosen foreign countries at a reduced price or as a grant. The reduced price is a percentage of the original acquisition value, based on age and condition of the equipment, and ranges from 5% to 50% of the original cost.
The recipient country, however, has to pay for packing, crating, handling and transportation, as well as refurbishment, if applicable. The Indian proposal envisages the transfer to be a gift.