Rajnath-led panel may give nod to modified Kalashnikov deal on Tuesday


Defence minister Rajnath Singh is expected to chair a special Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting on Tuesday to formally approve changes to the Rs 5,124-crore Kalashnikov deal with Russia, the contract for which will be signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India beginning December 6.

The changes that India and Russia have worked out in the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) need to be officially cleared by the DAC, sources informed.

The Russian-designed AK-203 will be made in a factory in Uttar Pradesh and both the countries have agreed on the deal in terms of numbers, price and process.

The deal involves the manufacture of 601,427 AK-203s over 10 years in India for the armed forces. The first 70,000 will be Russian-made off-the-shelf rifles before the transfer of technology begins.

These will be delivered to the army 32 months after the production process begins. A newly-created firm, Indo-Russian Private Ltd (IRPL), will make the Kalashnikov assault rifles. The Indian firms collectively hold a 50.5% stake in IRPL, with Kalashnikov owning a 42% share and the Russian defence export agency, Rosoboronexport, owning the remaining 7.5%.

The production of the rifles is expected to begin in early 2022. Eventually, the AK-203 will replace the 5.56x45mm INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles that are currently in use with the army, navy and air force besides other security forces and will become the mainstay of the armed forces for years to come.

The deal was first announced in 2018. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the production facility at the Korwa Ordnance Factory in Uttar Pradesh’s Amethi district in March 2019. There was roadblock over price negotiations but the matter has been addressed.

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