A majority of the manufacturers of protective equipment and bullet-proof jackets for the Indian Army personnel use Chinese raw materials, and this, in view of the recent standoff between the two countries, has prompted Niti Aayog member VK Saraswat to urge a “re-look” at these imports, reported the Indian Express on Sunday (June 21).
Following the recent clashes with Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed, the defence ministry had called for urgent reinforcement of an estimated two lakh units of the protective gears, it said, adding that a majority of the existing Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) used raw materials from China.
Recalling that these OEMs also include the firm that had bagged a ₹639-crore contract for 1.86 bullet-proof jackets for the Army in 2017, the report pointed out when the Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, told the Parliament that there was “no embargo” on the import of raw materials from the neighbouring country for making protective gears for Army.
Saraswat, a former chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, told Indian Express that the Niti Aayog had even discouraged the import of raw materials from China for making bullet-resistant jackets for their “doubtful quality.” He said now he feels there should be a “clear re-look” into such exports from China.
Last Saturday, the report said, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry had written to the Defence Secretary, citing the steps taken by the Telecom Ministry to “avoid Chinese equipment in upgradation” and specifically mentioning the imports of raw material from the neighbouring country for manufacturing bullet-proof jackets.
“Generally all the manufacturers (of protective gear) are importing this material from companies based in the Republic of China and very sizeable foreign exchange is diverted to these companies…we request you to kindly make a policy to reduce dependence on the Chinese materials substantially so that the security and safety of our fighting soldiers is not compromised,” the report quoted the letter as saying.