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India’s new army chief stresses need for advanced weaponry

General Upendra Dwivedi has called for equipping soldiers with the most up-to-date defensive systems

India must equip its soldiers with the latest armaments while continuously revising its strategic planning to stay ahead of potential threats, the new chief of the nation’s 1.3 million-strong army has said.

In his first public remarks since his appointment as the 30th Chief of the Indian Army, Gen. Upendra Dwivedi stressed that the armed forces were facing a unique operational challenge given a changing geo-political landscape and rapidly evolving technology.

“To remain prepared for such threats and distinctive requirements, it is crucial that we continuously equip our soldiers with state-of-the-art weapons and technology and continue to evolve our war-fighting strategies,” he said on Monday, addressing the media after a ceremony in New Delhi.

He emphasized, however, that the Indian Army is fully capable and ready to face all current and future challenges, including those posed by border disputes with nuclear-capable neighbors China and Pakistan, as well as ongoing counter-terrorism operations in the regions Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

Dwivedi’s comments come against the backdrop of conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. In October last year, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh advised the country’s armed forces to be prepared for “unconventional and asymmetric warfare, including hybrid war” in the face of the conflict in Gaza.

The general also stressed that the Indian Army aims to be “atma-nirbhar” (self-reliant), and urged the procurement of equipment locally. “To achieve this [self-reliance], we will encourage indigenous initiatives and induct maximum war systems and equipment that are manufactured in our country,” he said.

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India has been developing a range domestically-produced military platforms for deployment along contested border areas and at sea. New Delhi has made lists of thousands of systems that are to be “indigenized,” while also inviting start-ups into the sector. The government has set up two defense industrial corridors – in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu states – to boost domestic production by building a manufacturing ecosystem relying on private firms, including small and medium companies.

An interim budget announced in February allocated $74.8 billion to defense. Last year, India’s defense ministry approved a $5.4 billion spending package, which contained money for various weapons systems and ammunition, including survey vessels for the navy, Dhruvastra short-range air-to-surface missiles for the air force, Light Armored Multipurpose Vehicles (LAMV), Integrated Surveillance and Targeting Systems (ISAT-S), and a dozen Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets that will be built under license for the Indian Air Force by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The Indian government increased its annual target for defense and aerospace production to $36 billion, while also raising the export target to $6 billion from around $2 billion recorded last year, which itself was a nearly tenfold increase since 2016-17.

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Experts have noted rising interest in Indian-made personal protective gear, offshore patrol vessels, light helicopters, and coastal surveillance systems. BrahMos supersonic missiles, co-developed with Russia, have emerged as a key export item, with several countries lining up to make purchases. Earlier this year, India delivered a shipment of the missiles to the Philippines.

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July 01, 2024 at 05:46PM

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