In an effort to boost the government’s ambitious Atmanirbhar Bharat program, the Ministry of Defence has a list of 209 items, which would be procured domestically. India plans to spend $ 130 billion on military modernization in the next five years. Achieving self-reliance in defence production is a key target for the Government of India.
However, the fact remains that Indian military still imports clothing and equipment from aboard despite a thriving textile industry in the country. According to HT report, Indian gloves for Siachen front is imported from a company in Myanmar, while the sleeping bags for the glacier are manufactured by a company in Sri Lanka. It has to be highlighted that the Israeli army procures military boots from a Kanpur-based company, but the Indian army gets its specialized boots “Made in Italy”.
Ajay Kumar, the present defence secretary, has been pushing for indigenization of military clothing since 2018. Kumar told the military that since 100% FDI is allowed in defence sector, the companies from which the clothing and equipment was being imported should be asked to set up shop in India for impetus to the local textile and leather industry. He is also pushing for Indian shoe-makers for the army as there was a thriving leather industry in Kanpur and Agra.
General Bipin Rawat, present Chief of Defence Staff, is also pushing for total indigenization of clothing. He had recently visited a Bengaluru-based clothing manufacturer to ask whether he could supply sleeping bags, camouflage tents and jackets to the Indian military.
A senior defence ministry official said the qualitative and quantitative requirements of the military were designed in such a way that the Indian manufacturers found it difficult to compete in an unfavorable environment. He pointed out that heavy snow parkas were tested for being rain proof despite the fact that it never rains in Siachen Glacier with temperatures well below zero.
The official added that even though the military clothing budget would be Rs 200-400 crore for the Indian military, there is no reason for them to seek foreign manufacturers when the same quality is available with Indian textile manufacturers.