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India procuring 72,000 assault rifles from the US as part of infantry modernisation

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NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Army is fast-tracking the procurement of 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles for its troops from the United States as part of infantry modernisation, people familiar with the development said on Sunday.

The procurement is taking place at a time the Army is engaged in a tense border row with Chinese PLA in eastern Ladakh.

The Army is implementing a mega infantry modernisation programme under which a large number of light machine guns, battle carbines and assault rifles are being purchased to replace its ageing and obsolete weapons.

In October, 2017, the Army began the process to acquire around seven lakh rifles, 44,000 light machine guns (LMGs) and nearly 44,600 carbines.

The world's second largest standing Army has been pushing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security challenges along India's borders with Pakistan and China.

The government is fast-tracking procurement of 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles from the United States for the India Army, the people cited above said.

They said the Sig Sauer rifles will be used by troops deployed along the nearly 3,500-km border with China.

The government has accorded priority to the modernisation of the armed forces and the infantry modernisation has been initiated as part of the larger process to further enhance combat capability of the Army.

Prior to 2019, the procurement of assault rifles witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the time taken to finalise the specifications for it.

Defence and security ties between India and the US have been on an upswing in the last six years. The bilateral defence trade touched USD 18 billion mark in 2019, reflecting the growing defence cooperation between the two sides.

Both sides have also been pushing for joint venture and collaboration between private sectors of the two countries in defence manufacturing.

In June 2016, the US had designated India a "Major Defence Partner," intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with New Delhi to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

The Indian and Chinese armies were locked in a bitter standoff in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last eight weeks. The tension escalated manifold after a violent clash in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian Army personnel were killed.

The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details. According to an American intelligence report, the number of casualties on the Chinese side was 35.

In the last one week, Chinese military has withdrawn troops from all major friction points in line with a disengagement understanding with Indian Army.

Both sides have held several rounds of diplomatic and military talks in the last few weeks to ease tension in the region.

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