Defense minister Rajnath Singh approved a ban on the import of 108 military weapons but the list didn’t include a ban on big-ticket items that could bar the procurement of weapons like Main battle tanks and was limited to tracks and tank engines that were put on the negative import list and a day later, Indian Army issued Request for Information (RFI) for the Procurement of a new generation Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) and the timing was too much of coincidence that Army issued RFI under Strategic Partnership route within the provision of Chapter-VII of Defence Acquisition Procedure – 2020, that limits the whole program to just Transfer of Technology (ToT).

Many of the future concept that the RFI tender requires in the new medium-class tanks confirms how the tender has been tailored made for the Russian next-generation T-14 Armata offering that is often touted as a successor to the Russian T-90 tanks that are Main and most formidable tank in the Indian Army fleet. 30 plus years of research and development on Arjun tank and pity orders for 118 tanks earlier this year, often confirms why PM Modi’s plans to push for AatmaNirbhar Bharat in Defence is turning out to be a façade with no real achievement and or incentive to develop weapons like main battle tanks locally in India.

AatmaNirbhar Bharat and Make in India was supposed to make India self-reliant from basic small, medium to heavy weaponry to create an ecosystem that will be self-sufficient to create everything in the country and also compete in the International export market. We know that such levels of self-reliance and complete import ban of weapons from abroad will take up 20-25 years, but 7 years of Modi, and yet we are not backing major turn-key programs like FRCV for the Indian Army and Indian Air force still is looking to procure more Dassault Rafale fighter jets.

Some of the major programs like TEDBF for the Navy and AMCA for the air force is still not able to get official clearance from the PMO yet, these mega programs in collaboration with the private sector companies were supposed to mature in 10-15 years and thus also create a base and the ecosystem upon which future weapon programs could be sustained and cleared India’s import bill by a huge margin. India continues to be the second most weapons procuring country in the world and the Indian military seems to have found a loophole with the spade of recent leasing of weapons from the united states to Israel that questions if AatmaNirbhar Bharat is losing its focus and again become old wine in a new bottle.

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