Srinagar, India, Dec 4 (EFE).- India has cleared the production of 500,000 AK-203 assault rifles, government sources said Saturday, to equip one of the world’s largest armies with a more reliable weapon that replaces the in-service and glitch-prone indigenous Insas rifle.
The clearance for the nearly $700-million joint project with Russia comes a day before President Vladimir Putin arrives in the Indian capital for high-level defense and strategic talks between the two countries.
Assault rifle is the very-basic weapon for infantry soldiers on the border and in counter-insurgency operations in urban and rural areas.
The 7.62 X 39mm caliber AK-203 rifle will replace the in-service Indian Small Arms System (Insas) inducted over three decades ago.
Insas rifles became hugely popular during the India-Pakistan military conflict in the northern Kargil sector in 1999.
However, of late, the Indian Army has flagged it as an “unreliable” and “clunky” weapon for its frontline troops fighting insurgency in Kashmir and the northeast and left-wing rebellion in central India.
The hunt for a new stock weapon for Indian soldiers began in 2011.
Russia manufactured the original AK-47 rifle that has had multiple upgrades since the first model came into active service in the Soviet Army in 1948.
The light-weight AK-203 rifle, a modified version of the Kalashnikov weapon, has an effective range of 300 meters and can fire 7.62 mm rounds, much larger than the 5.56 mm Insas rounds.
The Indian government sources said special-purpose Joint Venture called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Ltd (IRRPL) will manufacture the rifles in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
“The (AK-203) are robust and easy to use modern assault rifles with proven technology that will enhance the combat potential of soldiers to adequately meet present and envisaged operational challenges,” a government source said.
“They will enhance the operational effectiveness of the Indian Army in counter insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.”
The joint-venture project between the Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Ltd (AWEIL) and Munitions India Ltd and Rosoboronexport (RoE), and the Kalashnikov deal with Russia are expected to boost strategic bilateral defense ties.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is arriving in New Delhi on Sunday night for a two-day trip.
He will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other high-profile defense and security officials for the 21st annual bilateral summit between the two countries.
Modi and Putin will review the state and prospects of bilateral ties of the two cold-war allies and discuss ways to strengthen the strategic partnership. EFE