A decade after it was demanded by the Indian Army for its forward troops along China and Pakistan border, the Ministry of Defence on Thursday signed Rs 880 crore deal to procure 16,479 Israeli light machine guns (LMGs). The first batch of 16,479 Negev 7.62X51 mm LMGs will only be the part of overall demand placed by Navy and Air force besides the Army. "The Negev LMGs, manufactured by the Israel Weapons Industries, are combat-proven weapons currently used by several countries around the globe. The shortfall, like in the case of assault rifles, will be made through a 'Make in India' project," the Times of Indian quoted an official as saying.

Indian Army
Indian Army soldiers in Kashmir (Representational Image)Credit: Reuters

The Negev LMGs will increase the lethality of India forces guarding our borders as it gives an edge over the existing weapons. The official further added, "The Negev LMGs will greatly enhance the lethality and range of soldiers as compared to their existing weapons. The provisioning of this operationally urgent and very critically needed weapon will boost the confidence of the frontline troops."

 Major delays in procurement

Interestingly, the Indian Army had raised a demand for new assault rifles and close-quarter battle carbines almost one and a half-decade ago. Similarly, a request was also put in place for LMGs in 2009. But the much-needed requests were put behind the burner due to graft allegations or unrealistic technical parameters as well as the lack of indigenous options for more than a decade.

Indian Army soldiers.
Indian Army soldiers take positions during an encounter with militants in Kashmir.AP

Finally, in 2018, the government decided to procure a limited number of (72,400), close-quarter battle carbines (93,895) and LMGs (16,479) for its forward troops from abroad. It was argued that the shortfall would be fulfilled with manufacturing the remaining guns in India. In December 2019, the Indian Army has started using the US-made SiG Sauer assault rifle. The Army also received the first batch of supplies of the ammunition for its sniper rifles. Eventually, on Thursday, a deal for procuring a light machine gun was signed with Israel Weapons Industry.