NEW DELHI- Of the 30 countries that attended a defense exposition last month to sell weapons to India, the world's largest arms importer, only the Russians had the chutzpah to dress up their tanks and guns with women in tight fitting camouflage.
The confident and sexy display reflected Russia's longtime position as India's dominant military provider, but decades of effort by India to make its own hardware may finally be bearing fruit. India recently rolled out its own fighter jet, a tank, a mobile howitzer and a host of locally made ships.
If India succeeds, the Russians could be in trouble. Russia has nearly $39 billion worth of military equipment on order by India, representing nearly a third of Russia's total arms exports, the New York Times said in a report.
India's defense minister, A. K. Antony, said at a news conference during the exposition that the country's reliance on foreign arms makers must end. "A growing India still depending on foreign companies for a substantial part of our defense needs is not a happy situation," he said.
India is expected to spend about $11 billion this year buying weapons from abroad, despite decades of effort by the government to create a domestic military manufacturing sector.
"I don't think there's another country in the world that has tried as hard as India to make weapons and failed as thoroughly," said Pieter D. Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
India ranks eighth in the world in military spending. Among the top 10 weapons buyers, only Saudi Arabia has a less productive homegrown military industry.
India has tried to encourage private companies to make arms in India, both in partnerships to the government and independently, but few of these efforts have succeeded. Most of India's homegrown arms are developed in 50 government labs and built at eight large government manufacturing facilities and 40 government ordnance factories.