The long-delayed assault rifles factory in Amethi is likely to get a final push on Tuesday at a critical meeting, where the Indo-Russian joint venture chosen in a government-to-government deal is expected to firm up its commercial offer which would result in start of production this year.
The order to manufacture a record 670,000 Kalashnikov AK 203 rifles for the Indian Army has been discussed for more than a year but the formal order has yet to be placed owing to delays in submission of technical and commercial bids. As reported by ET, the technical gates for the deal were crossed in October last year and the next step is submission of a firm commercial offer that would have to be cleared by the government. While the factory at the politically sensitive Amethi was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March last year, it has yet to commence work on producing the much-needed assault rifles.
Amethi, an erstwhile Nehru-Gandhi family bastion, is represented in Parliament by the BJP’s Smriti Z Irani, who defeated the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha election last year.
The first board meeting of the joint venture, scheduled for Tuesday, can formally take the process forward by firming up the offer price for the rifles, said people aware of the matter. If things go as per plan, formal production could begin by May and the first Indian made rifle could be ready for induction by the end of this year, they said.
For domestic production to start this year, formal orders have to be placed on the JV. The project is being treated as a priority but given the tight budgetary situation, commercial negotiations are the most critical factor. The rifles will be made under a joint pact between Kalashnikov and the Ordnance Factory Board.
The joint project is a high priority one for both nations, with Prime Minister Modi and President Vladimir Putin known to have taken a personal initiative to take it ahead at the earliest. The JV to produce Kalashnikov rifles has been described as the “fastest ever” created by Russia for a defence project.
The Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited joint venture will produce AK 203 assault rifles, with the number likely to increase to at least 750,000 later as requirements of other forces are added to the order.