In August India and Russia signed a deal for the immediate off-the-shelf procurement of 70,000 latest AK-203 series of assault rifles to replace the homemade 5.56×45 mm INSAS rifle.
AK-203 belongs to the AK- 200 series of assault rifles produced by the famous Russian company Kalashnikov, which is based on the design of the legendary AK-47, and to some extent it’s a cheap version of the AK-12.
India and Russia have reached an agreement to manufacture AK-203 rifles in India and have established a joint venture company called India-Russia Rifle Co.Ltd. In this company, the Indian state-owned arms factory owns 50.5% shares, the rest is in Russia. India has also built a gun factory in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh state.
The AK-203 may be the most advanced version of the famous AK rifle line. The AK rifle has been tested in real combat, fully meeting the requirements of the Indian Army. India army will buy more than 700,000 AK-203 guns to re-equip the Army.
So far, there have been no problems with India’s purchase of 700,000 AK-203s. However, there are problems with the production of the AK-203 in India; almost two years have passed, since the gun factory in Amethi was opened in 2019, but it is still not able to produce; Due to price problems, production came to a standstill.
In addition, the Indian-made AK-203 assault rifle has many differences from the original Russian gun, and this may be due to the cost factor. For example, the modular adjustable and foldable stock of the original Russian AK-203 has been replaced by a conventional wooden stock, in the made-in-India version.
Recently, in the state of continued tension with China and the collapse of the pro-American Afghan government, the Indian government had to directly import 70,000 AK-203 guns from Russia; 50,000 more than previously planned and will deliver them in the next six months. According to the original plan, India would directly import 20,000 AK-203 rifles and produce 650,000 in India, but the delay in production means that India has to directly buy more AK-203 guns from Russia.
One question is why the Indian army did not choose the domestically produced P-72 assault rifle. The new P-72 rifle series was developed by the Indian private company SSS Defense Group and it is a modern design. The P-72 is based on advanced Western assault rifle design concepts, found in rifles such as the ACR and FN Scar. Compared to the AK-203, the design of the P-72 is more advanced. However, the simplicity and reliability of the Kalashnikov rifle are its strengths.
Now, if a private Indian company can produce world-class assault rifles, at very competitive prices, then the Indian government must think twice before purchasing their assault rifles for foreign at such a high cost.
But there are many reasons why the Indian military did not choose the P-72. First of all, the gun is still in development and has not been combat tested. If the Indian army decides to buy 600,000 P-72s to replace the Insas rifle, that would be a big gamble indeed The Indian Army does not want to put all their eggs in one basket. It is very convenient for the Indian Army to use Sig-716i or AK assault rifles. But with the P-72 it is completely different, because this is a newly designed gun. However, the P-72 is a multi-purpose gun, there will be many variations, such as a carbine, DMR, CQB version. Therefore, the P-72 still has good prospects.
Currently India is capable of launching probes to Mars, but cannot develop modern assault rifles. In fact, not only assault rifles, but also the domestic factories of the India cannot design other types of light weapons, whether pistols or light machine guns. Currently, defence factories like OFB and ARDE have been producing replicas of foreign guns for decades. The monopoly of India’s state-owned arms factory has also led to some bad results.
For example, the price of the Makarov pistol (0.32 pistol) on the Indian market is as high as 86,300 rupees; while in the international market the price of the gun will not exceed 10,000 rupees.
The same goes for the Insas assault rifle, which was originally considered a derivative of the AK rifle, with a 5.56 mm caliber, somewhat similar to the Israeli Galil rifle. In the end, however, India created a rifle that was complex and constantly failing.
It cannot be said that the Indian army does not support domestically produced weapons, the fact is that the Indian army has purchased a lot of domestically produced weapons. But with the inefficient operation of India’s state-owned arms factory, the Indian military no longer trusts an Indian company to develop world-class light weapons.
However, as the Indian government realizes the importance of the localization of weapons and equipment, the situation is also changing. It is possible that in time, India will also achieve autonomy in the production of light weapons, and it will also develop excellent weapons such as the P-72 assault rifle.