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India to ban imports on over 100 items of military equipment

The Defense Ministry has said the embargo will allow India to become more self-reliant in weapons manufacturing. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pushed to increase domestic production.

India's Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that it will ban the imports of 101 items of military equipment in an attempt to boost its indigenous production.

The move is New Delhi's latest effort in pursuing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to make India "Atmanirbhar Bharat," or a self-reliant nation.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that the government is planning to gradually implement the embargo on select military imports between this year and 2024, and that the list will be expanded or updated periodically.

"Our aim is to apprise the Indian defense industry about the anticipated requirements of the Armed Forces so that they are better prepared to realize the goal of indigenization,'' Singh tweeted. "This is a big step towards self-reliance in defense."

Read more: India seeks shift from buying weapons to exporting them

"This decision will offer a great opportunity to the Indian defense industry to manufacture the items in the negative list by using their own design and development capabilities …" Singh said.

The list of embargoed items range from types of ammunition, sonars, and radars to artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, transport aircraft and helicopters, The Times of India newspaper reported.

'Make in India'

In May, when Modi launched the "Atmanirbhar Bharat" campaign, New Delhi said the country will stop importing weapons that can be made domestically so that its economy would become more self-reliant amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A major military equipment spender, India was the third-biggest buyer of military equipment last year after the US and China, according to an April study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Read more'Make in India' looking to take on China's tech industry 

During the Cold War, India mostly depended on the former Soviet Union for military equipment. It then turned to the US and diversified its purchases.

In February, Modi and US President Donald Trump signed a deal for India to purchase more than $3 billion (€ 2.5) in advanced military equipment.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, Modi has been vocal about promoting domestic manufacturing such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and protecting India's small firms. 

Alongside his "Atmanirbhar Bharat" campaign, the prime minister also launched his "Make in India" program.

India's battle with the coronavirus pandemic