Defence solutions

The government’s defence production policy announced last week places a welcome emphasis on self-reliance and indigenous development and production of arms and equipment.

Though procurement policies and procedures have been changed a number of times, it is the first time that a defence production policy has been formulated and unveiled. This is odd because India is the only country with sizeable armed forces which depends mostly on imports for its requirements.

Its indigenous production is low as it has a small military-industrial complex, and in the case of high-technology weapons systems, dependence on foreign manufacturers is very  high. The policy has been framed with the intention of creating and expanding local capabilities and reduce the dependence of imports in the coming years.

According to the policy, preference will be given to indigenous design, development and production of equipment. The idea is to  indigenously build all weapons systems required in the next 10 years and later, on the basis of the long-term integrated perspective plan, increasing local production to over 50 per cent. The decision to import items will depend on local capabilities, the urgency of requirement and criticality of the arms and equipment.

While the statement of intentions is good, there are doubts about how effectively the policy will be implemented. The performance of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has not been satisfactory. In 1995, a 10-year-plan was conceived to increase self-reliance in production from 30 to 70 per cent. But 15 years later the dependence on imports is still 70 per cent.

The government has also allowed 100 per cent private industry participation and 26 per cent foreign direct investment in the defence production sector. But the situation has not improved. The working of the DRDO, defence public sector units and ordnance factories has to be improved drastically and the prevailing attitudes at higher levels need to change.

Very often imports are preferred because they offer an easy way out and there are undesirable considerations. But the high level of imports is risky and dangerous for the country which has aspirations to become a global power. The financial benefits of indigenous production are also considerable. It must be ensured that the new policy is followed and implemented sincerely in letter and spirit.

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