SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

0-Compromise Needs To Be The Foundation

The process of indigenisation should be based on the foundation of a zero compromise policy and a mindset against any dilution of quality

Issue: 11-2020By Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd)Illustration(s): By SP’s Team

The Ministry of Defence has recently published a list of 101 items of military hardware that would no longer be procured from foreign sources for the armed forces. Instead, the listed items would be manufactured within the country by the Indian defence industry either in the public or private sector. This is a long overdue and is indeed a laudable step as it would provide a significant boost to the ‘Make in India’ campaign launched in September 2014, by the NDA government. This will also give a new lease of life to the campaign for self reliance. The ‘Make in India’ initiative is aimed at transforming India into a global manufacturing hub. This concept represents a complete change of the mindset of the industry and is in harmony with the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister of India related to ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’.

The Government has taken a number of steps in the recent past. The Indian defence manufacturing sector has been opened up for Foreign Direct Investment and to enhance ease of doing business, regulatory policies have also been relaxed to facilitate investments. The Government has inaugurated Defence Industrial Corridors linking selected cities in UP and in Tamil Nadu. These will be expanded to include a number of other cities in the two states. With ‘Make in India’ opening doors to investment, India could well be on its way to becoming the world’s most powerful economy.

It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the Indian armed forces are equipped well enough so that they are capable of meeting with the daunting challenges to national security that emanate from the not-so-friendly countries in the neighbourhood. To achieve the required state of military preparedness, it is of vital importance that the nation builds up the capability to produce bulk of the required military hardware within the country and not depend on procurement from foreign sources. This will serve the dual purpose of achieving a high degree of self reliance and consequently to reduce considerably, the financial burden on the national economy on account of the import of military hardware.

Another clear advantage of being able to produce most if not all of the required military hardware within the country, is that in case of a military conflict, the nation will not have to suffer the consequences of a possible disruption in the supply especially of urgently required military equipment or be a victim of political sanction on export of military hardware imposed by the country from where the required weapons are to be sourced. A well developed and competent indigenous capability in the defence industrial sector provides strategic leverage with other nations as well who could depend on India’s defence industry to equip their own armed forces and not have to depend in India’s competitors or military rivals. Indigenisation will also benefit the national economy significantly by creating huge business opportunities especially in the private sector.

The Indian defence budget is huge and today, it is the fifth largest in the world. Unfortunately, despite efforts by the government in the past, indigenous production of modern military hardware has remained very slow, thus thwarting the aspirations of the Indian armed forces for self sufficiency in this sector.

There is no doubt that developing indigenous manufacturing capability to boost self-reliance in the Indian defence industry is needed urgently. However, the mandate for self reliance can be fulfilled only if the Indian defence industry is able to upgrade its capabilities to compete with the leading players in the global defence industry. The key to a successful defence and aerospace industrial complex should be a zero-compromise approach in respect of quality both in the public and private sector of the Indian defence industry.

Success in the effort at indigenisation will be laudable and in the interest of the nation; but a major stumbling block would be the inability of the Indian aerospace and defence industry to deliver quality products in the required timeframe. This weakness in the system will not only undermine the operational capability of the Indian armed forces; but will impinge on national security. Stringent quality control and an uncompromising approach will go a long way in establishing meaningful indigenous capability in the Indian defence and aerospace industry. This will also enhance the level of confidence in military personnel tasked to operate the indigenously produced military hardware.

The defence manufacturing sector suffers from major systemic flaws that adversely affect its capability of delivering modern military hardware to boost indigenisation. This sector needs to be transformed through complete overhaul of the system to eliminate weaknesses. In the final analysis, this can be achieved only through a no-compromise policy and mindset against any dilution of quality of the product that would have to match the best international standards to make the drive for indigenisation meaningful and successful.