NEW DELHI – India’s defense ministry cleared Wednesday proposals worth nearly $700 million to buy military equipment but deferred a key multi-billion dollar decision on replacing the country’s aging air transport fleet.
India, the world's largest buyer of weapons, is in the midst of revamping its aging military equipment and recently lifted a cap on foreign investment in defense.
The country has been keen to move ahead with defense orders amid a string of new border skirmishes with arch-rival Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region and an increasingly assertive China.
The deals included the purchase of four helicopters for survey vessels and upgrading the nation's electronic warfare system, a defence ministry spokesman told reporters.
"The defense acquisition council has also cleared a proposal relating to purchase of a platform system for transporting military equipment," he said.
The proposals cleared were worth 44.4 billion rupees ($696 million), the ministry official added.
The defence council, which approves big military procurements, deferred a decision on a joint bid by European giant Airbus Defence and Space and India's Tata Advanced Systems Ltd to supply the Airbus C295 medium transport aircraft.
The C295s are meant to replace the Indian Air Force's fleet of 56 Avro aircraft valued at $3 billion.
According to the proposal, 16 twin-turboprop tactical military aircraft would be supplied in fly-away condition by Airbus and the remaining 40 would be assembled by Tata in southern Hyderabad as part of a technology transfer.