In a move with tremendous strategic import, India has been on a secretive weapons shopping spree on an emergency footing, buying up anti-tank missiles, tank engines, rocket launchers and various kinds of ammunition, from Israel and Russia. The purchases amount to more than $3 billion, persons close to the development said, asking not to be named. Deliveries have begun even as new orders are still being placed.
From Russia, India has bought a few thousand anti-tank guided missiles, several T-90 tank engines and critical tank components. The Russia-made T-90 is the Indian Army's mainstay battle tank. The Russia list also includes multi-barrel rocket launchers that operate with the artillery against advancing columns and soft skinned targets, and large quantity of various kinds of ammunition.
From Israel, India is getting sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles and several thousand missiles, mainly for the Indian Navy.
HuffPost India is withholding the exact nature and quantity of the arms and ammunition because of its sensitive nature. But to give a broad idea, the purchases are to shore up the stocks of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy. They include high explosive bombs, protective armour for troop-carrying vehicles and tanks, and anti-personnel grenade launchers, among other things.
Top sources in the government confirmed that two separate teams of an "empowered committee" led by senior officials were rushed to Russia and Israel towards the close of 2016 to make these "off-the-shelf purchases"—a procedure of buying resorted to only when there is an emergency. Empowered committees can take on-the-spot decisions to buy and negotiate prices, cutting down lengthy negotiation processes.
Much of the equipment that India decided to buy is now on its way. They are being airlifted in special flights from various ports in Russia and Israel to India.
Top military sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity cited the situation across the border and the aggressive maneuvering by the Pakistan military after the surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Indian Special Forces as reasons for the emergency purchases. "It is wise to be prepared," a senior officer said. Others senior officials accepted that stocks of some very critical war fighting items need to be increased. "The emergency purchases are aimed at replenishing and maintaining a minimum level of preparedness for any eventuality," a senior official at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The MoD did not offer a comment for this article.
Speaking to the media earlier this month, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had said that level of "hollowness" in the Indian Army—a military term to describe both lack of stocks of critical items and obsolescence in weapon platforms—"in case of a two-front war is of concern." A two-front war is a situation where India will have to engage Pakistan and China simultaneously. He went on to add that the military was comfortably stocked to handle the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. The government has also given more financial powers to the military to buy critical equipment, he said.
Sources also said that another empowered committee is headed to Russia to procure items for Indian Air Force. The Indian Air Force too suffers from hollowness and deficiencies.