WASHINGTON - India, the world’s largest buyer of weapons, plans to spend more than $ 130 billion over the next seven years on importing sophisticated arms, according to a media report, which also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has decided to turn the country into a big dealer of weapons.

Citing Indian officials, The Washington Post said the imports will help New Delhi upgrade its understocked, Soviet-era arsenal with modern weapon systems. India is the world’s largest buyer of weapons, accounting for 14 percent of global arms imports, almost three times as many as China, the newspaper said in a report from New Delhi.

But now the Modi government is pursuing an ambitious new push to foster a domestic arms industry, within a greater nationwide initiative Modi has called ‘Make in India,’ according to the report. As part of the new push, New Delhi, which for more than a decade, shopped around the world in search of a deal for more than $1 billion worth of helicopters to replace about 200 of its military’s aging light-utility aircraft, has scrapped that plan in favour of manufacturing them in India instead.

In recent months, India has reversed two more proposals for buying transport aircraft and submarines and decided to make them at home. The report says India’s military modernization will help strengthen the nation’s strategic role in the region. Meanwhile, the report says, the United States has surpassed Russia as India’s biggest arms supplier. In the past three years, India spent nearly $14 billion importing weapons, of which more than $5 billion worth were purchased from the United States. Russia was a close second, with a little more than $4 billion in arms sales to India.

India’s military modernization can generate billions of dollars worth of business for American companies, but it also helps strengthen the nation’s strategic role in the region - at a time when Indian and US militaries are conducting more and more joint exercises, the report said. The massive buying spree coincides with India’s growing border tensions with China and Pakistan, and the approaching drawdown of international forces from Afghanistan this year.

Citing analysts, the Post said that closer defense ties between India and the United States are a key part of what both countries hope will be an improved relationship between them, and what President Barack Obama rather hopefully has called ‘the defining partnership of the 21st century.’

But for American companies, working with India can be frustrating, and the country ranks low on the World Bank’s global ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index, it said. Even now, the slow pace of decision-making, a 49 percent limit on foreign investment in Indian defence firms and mandatory obligations to invest in local defence manufacturing remain irritants for American businesses, it said.