Intro: Although ‘Make in India’ for defence remains a distant vision for a country which imports 60 pc of its defence requirements with only about 16 pc share of local manufacturing sector, delegates at a two-day National Seminar on ‘Self-reliance in Defence Manufacturing’ pointed out various unforeseen hurdles in the process.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on February 7 called for meeting the essential defence requirements through indigenous production. It was in the interest of the country that ‘critical things’ were produced in India and even exported. “We can export to many countries technologies which may not be latest but adequately hi-tech. Our expertise in rocket science has already generated interest in other countries,” he said.
Speaking at a two-day national seminar on ‘Self—reliance in Defence Manufacturing’ organised by the Forum for Integrated National Security (FINS) in Hyderabad Shri Parrikar added, “Many countries are interested in taking initiatives from India, especially our expertise in rocketry. We need to develop. Obviously, there are bottlenecks including procedural. They are not due to lack of understanding but are our own creation.”
Shri Parrikar said unfortunately there were bottlenecks in developing capacities. These were not for want of policy or understanding. In the past 10 years, the system has tied itself in knots leading to a web of procedural bottlenecks. “I am trying to undo the knots. It may take a few months as we need to follow procedures despite our impatience,” he emphasised.
According to him we should start focusing on self production by banking on research institutions like DRDO and production facilities like Ordnance Factory. He said that the investments too should be local. “Technology provided by other countries may not be adaptable to our conditions like that in Siachen. So we need self-reliance. We should be in a position where we are the exporters,” he said. There will be discussions on how the private entrepreneurs and organisations can help India achieve the goal of self-reliance in the defence sector and FDI in defence, as well as export of weapons and systems as a long term national goal.Referring to the blanket ban on Tatra, Shri Parrikar said 7,000 trucks manufactured by the company were being used by the Army. But 10 per cent of them were not in working condition for want of spares. What was more important—blacklisting a firm which committed a crime or country’s interests? “While punishing a wrong-doer is necessary, defence interest of the country should take precedence,” he said.
Shri Parrikar spoke of an imaginary situation where cutting down options by indiscriminate blacklisting might put the country in a spot. Depending on other countries for supply of armaments meant letting our security remain in some other country’s hands. Therefore, it was paramount that India manufactured critical things locally and even exported them.
FINS national president Lt Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar pointed out that 66 countries were in a conflict situation at the moment. “The facet of security is changing and if we start developing our own technologies, at least some of the secrets will remain unknown to adversaries,” he said. FINS President for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Maj Gen (Retd) AB Gorthi noted that the 70 per cent of the nation’s defence requirements were met through imports and the need for a strong and effective internal security mechanism is no longer a matter of choice but of necessity.
Minister of Industry and Commerce, Telangana Jupally Krishna Rao who graced the occasion on behalf of the Telangana govt. said that with industrialisation as key strategy, the state was marching from research, innovation and industry towards prosperity. The Telangana Government would encourage institutions involved in research and manufacturing of defense material. Speaking at the valedictory function of the seminar, State Governor ESL Narasimhan lamented that despite several years of ongoing research, the country has not been able to evolve a native encryption device. He stressed the need for cooperation and collaboration of stakeholders in defence sector on a selective basis as he noted that complete indigenisation as part of ‘Make in India’ is probably too early to think about. — N Nagaraj Rao from Hyderabad