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Govt moving towards finalising partnership model to build high-tech weapons

Top government officials will meet defence equipment manufacturers on Thursday to discuss ways to allow Indian private companies to build high-tech weapons systems with foreign suppliers.

The government released its defence procurement procedure in March 2016 but without a key chapter on the partnership model, which would works as the template for cooperation between Indian and foreign firms.

The world’s biggest arms importer, India needs to upgrade its defence infrastructure and manufacturing equipment at home would save precious foreign exchange, cut procurement delays and generate jobs.

Once ready, the partnership model is expected to give a push to several big-ticket projects, including those for next-generation submarines, fighter planes and helicopters.

Thursday’s meeting would be the fourth such interaction between all stakeholders, including leading private sector companies and industrial associations, sources in the defence ministry said.

Differences within the government over what the modalities of the strategic partnership have been holding up the policy.

Several issues had been resolved and the government had made significant headway in fine-tuning the proposed model, sources said.

L&T, Tata, Mahindra Defence and Reliance Defence are among the private sector firms eyeing opportunities to build complex weapon systems in the country under the strategic partnership model.

These guidelines are expected to provide fresh impetus to talks between India and Western aircraft makers for setting up production lines for single-engine and twin-engine fighter planes in the country. India plans to induct more than 400 fighter planes over the next decade.

The guidelines will also govern a Rs 64,000-crore project to build submarines in the country. Several foreign manufacturers are eyeing tie-ups with domestic shipyards to be part of the one of the costliest projects under the Make in India programme, the Modi government’s ambitious plan to attract foreign investment and step up manufacturing.

Implementing the strategic partnership model will be one of the key challenges for new defence secretary Sanjay Mitra, who takes over from G Mohan Kumar. Kumar’s two-year tenure ends May 24.

Source: HindustanTimes