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India's arms modernization hampered by populist budget

Handouts before poll weaken New Delhi's muscle-flexing against China and Pakistan

An Indian Navy Chetak helicopter, seen here in 2007. India needs to replace such helicopters for newer models.    © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- India has been taking steps to modernize its military equipment, buying new helicopters and assault rifles, in part as deterrent to any threat from neighboring China and Pakistan, but its giveaways to win over voters are denting its defense budget.

India on Tuesday kicked off the process to acquire 111 naval utility helicopters, inviting expression of interest from local and foreign manufacturers. The Indian navy is in dire need of these choppers to replace the outdated French-designed Chetak helicopters produced by state-run defense company Hindustan Aeronautics. The new helicopters will be used in search and rescue, casualty evacuation, low-intensity maritime operations and torpedo drops.

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