India is in advanced talks with Russia to acquire a newly developed light tank. These could be useful in high altitude areas like the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. The talks to buy the Sprut SDM1 light tanks were initiated in July itself under a fast-track, government-to-government process.
The challenges in India’s military security are manyfold. India spends only 2% of its GDP on defense which is far less than the developed countries like the USA and China. India’s defense budget has never been able to meet the growing demands of the Defence Sector.
The need for such tanks was felt after increased Indian deployments at the LAC following border hostilities with China which has also fielded a range of its equipment known as the Type 15 light tanks.
India has taken this move because it needs to be better equipped to face China in any case of a standoff. Currently, the tanks deployed by India are heavyweight tanks and these pose a difficulty in maneuvering them in the mountain areas whereas the light weighed tanks allow faster mobility in mountainous terrain.
After the Galway valley incident, the Indian government gave a free-hand to the Armed forces to acquire any weapons which cost less than Rs 500cr in order to deal with emergencies.
India could acquire almost two dozen such tanks in the first tranche. The need for lightweight tanks has been noted in the past too. In 2009, the Army had issued a Request For Information (RFI) for 200 wheeled and 100 tracked lightweight tanks for the new Mountain Divisions that were then being raised.
Now, the government-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is reportedly working on lightweight tanks. Reports suggest that it is in talks with a private company Larsen and Toubro to convert the K-9 ‘Vajra’ into a lightweight tank.
China may or may not have encroached on our land but it has definitely forced the government to delve deeper into the issues of Military security which has been long overdue.