New Delhi: UAE’s state-owned small arms firm Caracal said it is bringing its entire portfolio of products under the ‘Make in India’ initiative as the country stepped up diplomatic efforts to salvage an Army contract for over 93,000 close quarter battle rifles (carbines).
Although the Army contract won was under Fast Track Procurement (FTP), the deal is yet to be inked. The defence ministry had in September taken an in-principle decision to scrap the contract in favour of making such rifles in India rather than procuring them from abroad.
“After being declared as the lowest bidder (L1) in 2018, we remain committed towards this contract. We have seen that this is not the first time that Indian Defence Ministry is taking time to finalise the contract after an L1 has been declared,” CEO of Caracal, Hamad Salem Al Ameri told ThePrint in an interview.
He added that Caracal is “counting on the relationship between two governments”.
Underlining that the contract was “still alive”, Al Ameri said, “So far we feel very positive about the contract. Yes, this is our first entry into the Indian market. We knew it would take time to get this through, The offer and contract is still alive. Officially, everything is still on in the right direction”.
He added that relations between the UAE and India is much much bigger than this contract and that “a lot of defence and security cooperation is on”.
In September, the UAE ambassador to India met with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat to discuss the contract just days after ThePrint reported India’s in-principle decision to cancel it.
The UAE also pushed for the deal during the recent visit of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to the country.
Meanwhile, the delivery of 72,400 American SiG 716 G2 battle rifles, which was agreed upon at the same time that Caracal won the bid in 2018, has been completed and the Indian Army has moved ahead with a follow-up order.
“The Indian government knows how seriously we are committed to ‘Make in India’. While we have won the FTP contract because we were L1, we were also the L2 in the other contract (battle rifles). We are the only company that passed the testing of both calibers. They got one contract but they failed in the other one even when it is coming from the same family of small arms,” Al Ameri said.
Talking about future plans, the Caracal CEO said the Indian Army has an overall demand of 3.5 lakh carbines and hence the firm has already identified a local partner and is pushing ahead with ‘Make in India’.
“We did not wait for the contract. We have believed in ‘Make in India’ from the start itself because the size of the Indian market deserves a proper ‘Make in India’. We are steps ahead and (have) identified suppliers who can at present make 60 per cent of the rifle parts locally,” he said.
This 60 per cent covers a lot of parts, said Al Ameri. “There are more than 108 parts to the rifle. Some are polymer, some are steel, and different kinds of steel. You will also have accessories, like sights, bayonets and cleaning kits. We have identified local suppliers.”
The CEO said that the company will soon announce its main Indian partner “which is one of the biggest defence groups in India with reputation and history”.
A ‘Make in India’ portfolio
Al Ameri said Caracal was part of UAE’s Edge group that has 25 plus companies in the defence sector.
“We have sister companies that can provide full solutions as a defence group. This is what Caracal brings to table. This is an important relationship. Caracal International has more than 17 products. We are looking for other proposals in the Indian market,” he said, adding that they will be participating in the home ministry’s upcoming contract for 9mm pistols and for the Army’s tender for sniper rifles.
“The potential is really high. We will be bringing a full portfolio of small arms under Make in India,” he said, adding that the company will also set up a maintenance facility.
“As we are a government company, we have a strategic vision. We don’t sell parts and disappear. We sell equipment and maintenance plans which is very important.”
The Caracal CEO said the idea was to not just supply but export from India. “We want to get Caracal India to have lots of parts of good quality and cheaper. This will enrich Caracal International. We are definitely looking into that. We are looking at Caracal India to supply to Caracal International and that will make Caracal more competitive. That is why we have identified local suppliers.”
Underlining that today Caracal has subsidiaries in five continents and is one of the most spread small arms companies in the world, Al Ameri said, “One usually has a partner which makes pistols, sniper or assault rifles. We bring the full package, that will be Make in India.”