With the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, India has commenced on a path of achieving new version of self-sustenance and self-reliance. Defence sector is growing on full throttle.
Russia, historically being a great ally of India in the defence sector has somewhat landed India in trouble in recent times. Thus, India is attempting to bring diversification in its defence and security sector in order to reduce its dependency and leaning towards Russia.
India’s Defence Diplomacy: A dynamic area for cooperation
In recent times, India has successfully is establishing its footprint in the defence and security sector whether its in the South-East Asian region, West Asia, or the West (the US and Europe).
Modi government these days prefers to import as Foreign Military Sales/government-to-government transactions through negotiations between governments rather than as direct commercial sales. Recent endeavours of India in the defence sector.
There have been policy changes signalling the end of an era of import dependence and aim to promote India as the most preferred global manufacturing destination for foreign OEMs/Tier-1 vendors. There have been substantial changes introduced in the defence policy framework in 2020. Raising the levels of Indigenous Content to a minimum of 50% across various categories, introducing new categories like ‘Buy (Global – Manufacture in India)’ under Defence Acquisition Procedure, 2020, thus increase the government’s focus on indigenisation.
In the Union Budget 2022, in line with the vision of a ‘self-reliant’ defence sector, the proposed domestic procurement budget witnessed an approx. 10% y-o-y increase. 100% FDI is permitted for defence manufacturing post seeking government approval. In 2021, FDI inflows of about INR 4,191cr have been reported by companies operating in the sector.
The government listed a total of 209 items to be produced indigenously with the timeline reflected against each in two ‘Positive Indigenisation Lists’ in August’20 and May’21 and the third ‘Positive indigenisation list’ in April’ 22 for another 101 items thus, bringing the total to 310 items. Different variants of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile were test-fired successfully recently from the Indian Navy’s frontline guided-missile destroyer INS Delhi and Indian Air Force (IAF)’s frontline fighter jet Sukhoi-30 MKI. Hence, a boost for the defence sector.
The government’s focus on making India, which is one of the biggest importers of arms, 70% self-reliant in weaponry by 2027 and promoting defence indigenisation has much to do with its MSMEs. To ease and accelerate the process of indigenisation, the government had also launched a Srijan portal in August 2020 to provide information on items that can be taken up for indigenisation by the private sector.
The two Prime Ministers reiterated themes and their importance, particularly the 5 sectors that the 2030 Roadmap had identified – revitalized and dynamic connections between people of the two countries; re-energized trade, investment and technological collaboration that improves the lives and livelihoods of their citizens; enhanced defence and security cooperation that brings a more secure Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific; and India-UK leadership in climate, clean energy and health that acts as a global force for good.
The defence and security cooperation included maritime cooperation, cyber security (cyber governance and safeguarding critical national infrastructure) along with space and cooperation in the nuclear domain (especially on nuclear security and safety, nonproliferation, disarmament and non-proliferation issues).
There have also been the MoU on Defence Technology & Industrial Capability Cooperation (DTICC), signed in 2019; Logistic and Training MoUs; agreements to enable smoother information exchange between the armed forces on either side; and more joint exercises.
After his wide-ranging talks with PM Modi on the second and final day of his recent India visit, Johnson said the UK is creating an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for India to “reduce bureaucracy and slashing delivery times” for defence procurement.
It was decided to collaborate on “Integrated Electric Propulsion – co-development of technology between the two Navies”, although this is not exactly a new development.
The UK will work with India to boost security in the Indo-Pacific, including new fighter jet technology, helicopters and collaboration in the undersea battlespace. Thus, aligning with and supporting the Make in India vision.
It seems that now there is a greater British willingness to liberalize their transfer of technology to the Indian defence industry.
As far as Europe is concerned, India’s defence/security relations with France are way ahead, compared to those between India and the UK. Therefore, there is much more than the UK has to do post-Brexit to keep India–UK military ties multi-faceted.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that the U.S. and India will launch new defence space exchanges this year between U.S. Space Command and India’s Defense Space Agency at the recent 2+2 dialogue.
The two defence establishments are also deepening cooperation in cyberspace, including through training and exercises later this year. India and the U.S. are expanding information-sharing partnerships across all warfighting domains. Both recently concluded, an agreement to work together on air-launched unmanned aerial vehicles through their defence technology and trade initiative.
After decades of India relying on Soviet and then Russian defence systems, India is buying more American defence platforms.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made a recent and fresh pitch to American firms to carry out joint research and development, co-production of systems, and manufacturing and maintenance of military hardware in the country to tap the opportunities under the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ initiative.
He said, “With increasing business, we aspire for increased investments by US companies in India. Making full use of the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA), we need to facilitate collaboration and indigenisation of defence technology and boost the participation of US and Indian companies in each other’s defence supply chains.”
Both democracies are worried about China, which seeks “to refashion the region, and the international system more broadly, in ways that serve its interests.” India and the U.S. identified new opportunities to extend the operational reach of militaries, and to coordinate more closely together across the expanse of the Indo-Pacific. They agreed to reinforce ties with like-minded countries, including Japan, Australia and European allies and partners.
India and ASEAN region- The Act East Policy paradigm
Individually, India subscribes to deepened defence relations with a host of ASEAN countries, and partakes in routine military diplomacy. Of ASEAN’s members, India obliges towards the conduct of coordinated patrols (CORPATs) with Indonesia and Thailand, aimed at inhibiting maritime piracy in a region that was once dubbed the world’s most dangerous.
India and ASEAN have notably agreed to provide an impetus to maritime cooperation having recognised the need to merit attention to the domain in several forms and features. ASEAN lies at the very centre of the chief causes of global consternation, amidst the troubles and turmoil of the South and East China Seas.
In a major boost to its defence export plans, India has signed a $375 million deal to export the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to the Philippines in January 2022. This is the first major military export by India. This supersonic missile is an India-Russia joint venture which can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms.
ASEAN’s ‘Outlook’ offered a strategy, while India confessed to a vision for the Indo-Pacific through PM Modi’s SAGAR programme. The other immensely significant regions such as the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific regions too are in dire need of long-term and multi-faceted strategising.
With the geo-economical and geopolitical equations in constant influx, it becomes critical and inevitable for India to revamp the way it has been functioning hitherto.
The constant turmoil in the neighbourhood and extended neighbourhood of India, has kept India on its toes and intensified and diversified its defence policy. The aggressive Chinese-Pakistan nexus, the Russian-West equation has compelled India to balance and protect itself from the brunt.
The sharp focus on the Indo-Pacific region and India being a key pillar to realise its strategic importance has increased the significance and responsibility of India. The alternate Indo-Pacific paradigm has presented a golden opportunity for India to utilise its potential as a net security provider in the region. In a positive fashion, Indian leadership can establish itself in the defence and security sector by arming without aiming or targeting and taking everyone along.