NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ slogan that seems to have been diluted over successive months of negligible manufacturing has run into serious trouble with Ecuador terminating its contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) recently. The decision came after four of the seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) imported from India crashed.

Ecuadorian defence minister Fernando Cordero made this announcement on October 14. He told reporters in Quito that two of the crashes were because of ‘mechanical failure’ after which the remaining three Dhruvs had been grounded by the Ecuadorian Air Force.

The Janes’ Defence Weekly has taken note of the development, pointing out that the helicopters were supplied by HAL at a cost of USD 145.2 millon in 2008-2009. The order has now been cancelled.

A HAL spokesman told IHS Jane's from Bangalore that maintaining the Dhruvs was "exclusively" the FAE's responsibility, as the 24-month warranty period for HAL to provide after-sales service support for the seven platforms had long expired.

However, he is quoted by the defence publication as saying that HAL was "more than willing" to offer the FAE "all and any" assistance it required to keep the remaining three Dhruvs operational.

The first Dhruv crashed shortly after delivery in 2009. The second crashed in February 2014, with three persons being killed. And this was followed by two other accidents, all within a fortnight of each other.

HAL has been facing problems for a while now with quality being a major issue. The Indian Army and Air Force hav, inducted over 160 Dhruv’s over the past 13 years but the helicopters have been periodically grounded because of technical snags. India has gifted a Dhruv helicopter each to Nepal and Mauritius.

The cancellation of the contract by Ecuador is a major setback to India’s ambitions of emerging as a exporting hub for defence equipment. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said at the beginning of the year that the government would be looking into concerns of quality and efficiency regarding HAL, but judging from Ecuador’s response little has been done on this front.