For a country that can successfully send probes to Mars and the Moon, build nuclear-powered submarines and develop an anti-satellite missile, India has been unable to manufacture a quality infantry assault rifle – that most rudimentary of weapons. Not just rifles and handguns, but even the ammunition required to fire them has been in short supply, with no less than the army chief revealing that the world’s second-largest army had barely enough ammunition to fight a war for four days.
Countries that are mere specs on the map, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, have done a lot better than India in the area of small arms and munitions. Even as these countries export rifles all over the world, India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which has a monopoly on small-arms production, has for decades cranked out rifles and handguns of extremely poor quality. These include the Indian National Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56 mm rifle which has let down our soldiers in a variety of battle environments – from the icy mountains of Kargil to the tropical Maoist-infested jungles of Chhattisgarh. This has led to emergency imports of assault rifles on a frequent basis, draining billions of dollars from the defence budget.
It may be debatable, but there is a strong view among the military analysts that the OFB, which falls under the Department of Defence Production, does not have the technology for delivering the next generation of small arms.