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Indian Armed forces get breather from negative list, can import items in ‘immediate’ cases

A Committee Chaired By Gen. Bipin Rawat Will Oversee Indigenisation Efforts, And Recommend The Removal Of Items From The Negative Import List If Needed.

File image of the Ministry of Defence building (representational image) | Commons

New Delhi: The armed forces will now be able to import defence equipment in certain circumstances even if it figures in the negative import list. This includes scenarios where there is an “immediate requirement” that domestic industry cannot cater to, or if the safety of soldiers is at stake due to inadequacies in an indigenous product.

There is also a provision now to review or remove items mentioned in the negative import list, which was first formulated in August 2020.

The defence ministry issued a notification last month saying that an empowered monitoring committee, the Defence Indigenisation Committee (DIC), would be constituted. This committee will oversee the implementation of the negative list, now known as the ‘Positive Indigenisation List’, and give further thrust to indigenous development. 

The DIC will be chaired by General Bipin Rawat, secretary, Department of Military Affairs and Chief of Defence Staff.

The notification said that the Indian industry is expected to invest in research and development to ensure that items placed in the indigenous list would be upgraded to keep pace with global technological advancements.

Failing this, “the specific items could be recommended to Defence Indigenisation Committee for review/ removal from the List,” the notification said.

It added that specific cases for import could be taken up in certain circumstances based on the committee’s recommendation. 

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This would include scenarios where domestic industry was unable to supply equipment in the stipulated time frame or quantity, “or where there are inadequacies in the equipment affecting the safety of troops, or in case of any other technical issues such as no valid response to RFP (Request for Proposal) etc,” the notification said.

An opening for Israeli artillery guns

The 155mm x 52 caliber towed artillery gun is an item that figures in the first negative import list. The embargo was to kick in from December 2020.

However, the cut-off date for this specialised gun was subsequently changed to December 2021.

This gun had made it to the negative import list because the Defence Research and Development Organisation was already working on an indigenous version, the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System. 

However, the Army has not been fully satisfied with this gun’s performance, and has been looking at procuring a limited number of the Israeli firm Elbit’s Autonomous Towed Howitzer Ordnance System (ATHOS).

The Army is looking at 400 of these guns (for 20 regiments) to overcome what it terms “operational voids in the medium artillery in HAA (High Altitude Area) along the northern borders”.

Elbit has actually offered to manufacture the guns in India with 70 per cent indigenous content.