SOURCE: Aravind .C / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
In international arms control, small arms include revolvers and pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, submachine guns and light machine guns. Small Arms are considered as the real Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Since it kills more people in a year than all other firearms combined. Indian planners have often ignored or didn’t give due importance to the small arms and also the small arms Industry in General.
In the low intensity conflicts that India is facing today it’s the Small arms which is a Prime weapon not the fancy fighter jets. It does not take a genius to understand that the India is lacking behind almost all major countries in this field.
We are the only major country in the world to import Assault rifles in huge quantities. Barring INSAS all other assault rifles ranging from Kalashnikovs (Which is in service with Police forces as well), M4 Carbines for Special forces (Incidentally even the US special forces have switched to SCARs and HK 416’s), Tavor series (Includes TAR-21, Micro Tavor). Needless to say we import Almost all the Sub Machine guns which are in Use in India (Of course except that WW2 Era Sten guns). As far as our Machine guns (Both light and heavy) are concerned we still rely on decades old weapons like PKM’s, DhsK which are not even upgraded to the cope up with current situations. In terms of sniper rifles the situation is even worse, apart from Dragunov SVD (which is also very much outdated) no other sniper rifle is made in India. Even in the Pistol category we manufacture only Pistol Auto 9mm and import all other ones like Glocks, FN Five seven from all over the world.
The role of OFBs are also not so promising in this field, the so called MCIWS (Multi Caliber Individual Weapon System) is without major design like a full Picatinny rail which is followed all over the world. Even as OFB has claimed to have building a local version of MTAR called Zittara we still import Tavors from Israel. OFBs have not even tried to build a decent sniper rifle since Independence. Also to add insult to the Injury there is no Private Small Arms company in India, it can be partially attributed to “License Raj” and rest is due to indifference shown by major Private industry towards small arms. But these companies fail to note that even defence heavy weights such as Lockheed Martin and Thales to name a few have their own Small Arms division. There are few talks regarding the manufacture of latest Alfa ISR which is a modernised AK by Reliance and Kalashnikov Israel Joint venture (Note: Even so only 60% of the weapon will be manufactured in India) but there is no decision yet.
Even a small country like Vietnam is Producing entire range of “Modern” Firearms in country with help of IWI of course. Countries like Czech Republic, Croatia are producing World class firearms and are one of the leading exporters of firearms. But, Country like India in spite of requirement in tens of thousands of Arms and Ammunition still rely on such a low tech item like Small Arms from Abroad. We can realise the dream of “Make in India” without manufacturing basic need of the soldier like a Rifle. One should not be deceived by the name “Small arms” since the Industry which includes Arms, ammunition and Optics for the arms accounts for Billions of dollars worldwide yearly.
Indian Armed forces and Homeland security (most of the police forces in India still uses vintage Lee Enfield rifles) requires to modernise the vast majority of its small arms. If Defence Ministry took steps in the right direction like involving Private Industry in small arms production or encouraging Joint Ventures, we can at least reduce our dependency on Small Arms Imports. Imagine if in a middle of a war some country embargoes small arms shipment to India, that would be a disaster to us. So we have to focus on making most of the small arms that we use in country .It’s better to be late than never.