By Invitation | Whither Kalashnikov

The curious case of keeping IRRPL out of the CQB carbine tender

Vinit Shah

Apparently, the ministry of defence held a pre-bid meeting on January 10 with potential bidders for the purchase of 400,000 CQB carbines chambered for 5.56×45 mm. Surprisingly, the Amethi-based India-Russia joint venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), in which India holds the controlling stake, was not invited to this meeting.

India-Russia to Sign Contract for Russian AK-203 Assault Rifles by Year End

This is doubly strange. One, because the production lines of IRRPL are running with 700,000 AK-203 assault rifles on order; and two, in March 2019, when the JV was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, ‘the joint venture will contribute to the development of the capacity of the country’s armed forces and strengthen national security… (IRRPL is) one of the brightest examples of cooperation within Make in India. This plant will also create jobs in Amethi and neighbouring districts.’ Then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said, ‘every soldier who will hold this new, modern Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifle in his hands will remember this enterprise and the Amethi district with gratitude.’

Given this, it is perplexing that MoD is inviting bids for a new type of carbine, ignoring the company IRRPL, in which it has the controlling stake. This is especially odd as the delivery of AK-203s being manufactured under license will commence later this year.

It is well-known that the Russian concern Kalashnikov, a partner in IRRPL, produces the widest range of small arms. It will not be difficult for the company with such a diverse portfolio to produce another model of a modern carbine at its state-of-the-art facility in Korva of the Amethi district. In fact, Russian gunsmiths from Izhevsk are capable of producing high-quality assault rifles in both calibres.


It is strange that the MoD gives preference to large-scale production in India of the AK-203 assault rifle chambered for 7.62×39 mm, and then suddenly decides to purchase a large batch of weapons for NATO ammunition 5.56×45 mm. Makes one wonder about the motivation for this, given that foreign minister S. Jaishankar in a recent meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the details of strengthening Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation.

To any layperson, it would seem logical that even if the armed forces need a different calibre for CQB carbine, it should first approach the company established exclusively to manufacture rifles in India. Not only would this increase the range of products manufactured by an Indian-owned JV, thereby expanding its technical know-how, the Indian military would also receive structurally similar models from one manufacturer, which will provide a unified system for its maintenance and repair. Moreover, it will simplify the development of small arms by the military personnel themselves.

It is difficult to understand what could have guided MoD’s decision. Could geopolitics be a factor in this? Whatever it be, one hopes that good sense prevails, and the government reviews its decision.




Call us