India is set to finalize a $660 million deal for mobile heavy artillery weapons — its third major gun purchase in the past year and a sign Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s defense spending spree is far from over, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The deal, expected to be approved in a cabinet decision in the coming days after extended commercial price negotiations, is a big win for Larsen & Toubro Ltd., a major Indian infrastructure and engineering company which partnered with South Korea’s Hanwha Techwin to modify the howitzer for local conditions.
It’s part of Modi’s $250 billion push to modernize the armed forces and overcome a 30-year lapse in its firepower procurement program, as India prepares to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China. Plans to buy new equipment from overseas have been held back by bureaucratic delays and the military’s desire to balance the needs of troops against efforts to have equipment built domestically under Modi’s “Make in India” program.
An Indian Army officer, who did not wish to be named as the matter is yet to go public, said the purchase contract for the 100 guns offered by L&T is pending final clearance and will soon go to the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval.
India Ministry of Defence spokesman Nitin Wakankar had no comment to offer on the possibility of the deal for the 155-mm 52-caliber K9 artillery gun — modified for the army’s need for a highly mobile, long-range deep fire support weapon with a higher rate of fire — being signed.
An email and phone calls to Larsen & Toubro seeking comment on the deal remain unanswered.
Since July last year, India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory delivered six locally-made 155-mm 45-caliber ‘Dhanush’ guns. In November, India signed a $737-million deal with the U.S. for buying 145 155-mm 42-caliber M777 guns.