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SOURCE: ET

The UAE government-owned entity that has been selected for a contract to supply close quarter battle carbines on a fast track basis to the army says that is in talks with major Indian defence players to set up manufacturing facilities from which it can source up to 60% of the components needed.

Caracal International, which was selected to supply 93, 895 new generation carbines, did not disclose the names of its Indian partners but said that it is willing to transfer technology and move production here, in an exclusive interview with ET.

As reported, the fast track carbine procurement plan is at a tricky juncture – at a special meeting held last month, chaired by the defence secretary, it was decided that plans in the works since 2018 to import a limited number of close quarter battle carbines to meet immediate requirements are to be shelved in favour of a Make in India plan.

However, the high-powered Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) still has to ratify the decision and the army has been of the opinion that a larger order for 350,000 carbines can be processed under the Make in India initiative but the fast track procurement of 93, 895 should go ahead due to the urgent nature of the requirement.

“We already have partners in India who are suppliers that can make more than 60% of the parts. They can make the samples and they can make the parts for us. So, when Caracal wants to move in India, we already have production suppliers and the relationship is there,” said Hamad Salem Al Ameri, chief executive officer, Caracal.

The executive added that Caracal can move to a 100% Make in India model in the future as well if its government-owned intellectual property (IP) is assured to be protected. “We have already identified all the suppliers for parts and who will do what and at what price. Now, we have a lot of options in India that we are carefully exploring,” he said, adding that the UAE-based company wants to offer its larger range of small arms to the Indian market.

Responding to questions on communication from the Indian ministry on the status of the contract, Al Ameri said that Caracal has been identified as the lowest bidder and has been waiting for a final decision and that government to government channels have been opened after reports that it could be cancelled.

“Under CARACAL portfolio, we have more than 14 products for small arms. We are very serious about the Indian market… the relationship between the two nations, the history that we have makes it easy to do,” he said.

The Indian Army has been without a close quarter battle weapon for years, with officials saying that regular assault rifles are being used for the role, reducing the operational efficiency of troops. While the weapons are particularly useful in anti-terrorist operations, they also have immense utility in border operations where a clash between patrolling troops can take place at close quarters.

Sources said that the army supports initiatives by the private and public sector in developing these weapons in-house and has started engaging with companies for a larger order of 350,000 rifles that will be fully made in India, with options for exports too.