India’s Desi Bofors and other indigenous weapons
Waqar Ahmed


Former Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar recently stated that Dhanush, a self propelled gun was in the final stages of being ordered by the Indian government. “That gives a tremendous boost to the capability of the armed forces once it goes in production. So why do we need to get worried about technology being US engineered,” he said. “India after more than 30 years has successfully developed its own gun. No new artillery gun was introduced for 30 years in the army. For the first time we have successfully developed and tested, field trial has been completed for Dhanush, which is 155/45 howitzer. Another self-propelled gun, 155/52 is in the final stages of being ordered.”

The statement was an amalgamation of truth with deceit, which has been a hallmark of Indian leaders.

The Dhanush project was started to replace 105mm field guns and Russian 122mm guns. The gun has been developed by India’s Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and manufactured by Jabalpur-based Gun Carriage Factory (GCF). It is touted as significantly improved version of Bofors 39-calibre field gun. Dhanush reportedly possesses a strike range of 38 km.

When the Bofors came in the Eighties, they brought with them a massive corruption scandal which has not fully died even today. The scandal engulfed the government of the late Rajiv Gandhi and since then the Indian Army had not inducted any field artillery gun.

According to the Indian defence minister, Dhanush was one of the “Make in India project. It is designed, developed and Made in India.” However, behind the Indian engineers stand foreign companies like Larsen & Toubro and Samsung of Korea, which are helping India develop its Desi Bofors.

Nevertheless, it has been revealed that the Indian Army has rejected the gun and has declared the trials as "failure". The army has claimed that Dhanush guns take jerks and the barrel is raised approx 32 degree during fire, thereby affecting accuracy. It said that the oil seal used as lubricant to elevate the gear box was being locally manufactured in India, whereas the original seal was available from Russia only. The locally manufactured oil seal was found not compatible with the gun.

While whatever the Indians claim about indigenous weapons production, the fact remains that India is dependent on foreign weapons and technology and thus remains a partner of superpowers in power politics and diplomacy and strategically vulnerable. It loses valuable foreign exchange as it has become the biggest weapon importer in the world. There is nothing totally indigenous in weapon platforms from the Arjun tanks to Tejas fighters. With defence budget of $46 billion per annum, New Delhi has not developed weapon technologies that are at par to that of the US and Russia. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has stated India accounted for 15% of the global arms imports from 2010 to 2014. "Between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, India's arms imports increased by 140%. In 2005-2009, India's imports were 23% below China's and just over double those of Pakistan," SIPRI said. With most efforts to produce indigenous weapon systems with the help of foreign firms ending in massive cost and time over-runs, the highly embarrassing exercise to import weapons by New Delhi continues.