The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi’s flagship initiative “Atmanirbhar Bharat” literally stands for India’s strength and motive of self-reliance. It was launched in May 2020. This initiative when applied to defence means that India should be ready to face futuristic wars; be it conventional/ nuclear/electronic etc. In military science or defence and strategic studies therein lies the concept of “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA). The basic underlying aim is to use smarter, precise, smaller but deadlier systems in place of large, complex and obsolete weapon platforms.
India faces a possibility of a two-front war situation in the near future wherein it has to combat its adversary “Pakistan” along with its all-weather friend/iron brother (Peoples Republic of China). The threat from China is much higher than that of Pakistan. The PLA (Army, Navy and Airforce) are expanding their power projection capabilities beyond their borders India faces a “String of Pearls” isolation and encirclement in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Recent clashes with China in Galwan, Doklam and Pangong Tso are considered future omens of war and conflict.
Before the Atmanirbhar Policy came into existence, Narendra Modi had developed Innovation for Defence Excellence for promoting and encouraging start-ups, and engaging Research and Development Institutes and Industries. The financial support for the MSME and Startups was provided by the Army Bureau of Design. Local firms were allowed to join the defence sector. Atmanirbhar Bharat has largely been very successful. The classic example of this initiative was the development of the IAC-Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant and the upgradation of the T-90 (Bhishma MBT). Royalty payments were halted by Putin and Modi
The Indian Armed Forces have the first right to use modern technology. In India, new technology is first used for civil purposes and then adopted by the military. China in particular has made deep forays into the arena of Artificial Intelligence and robotics and is way ahead of India. The Chinese threat comes from the LAC in the western sector as well as Arunachal Pradesh in the east. To defend its fronts, the Indian Army has been given a low lightweight radar system known as Ashlesha. It can track and detect helicopters, fighter jets and drones flying at low and medium altitudes. The best part is that it is suited for all types of terrain (mountains/deserts/jungles etc.)
For the Indian Air Force, Active Electronic Scanned Radar is a vital development. It shall surely enhance the electronic warfare capability which is a necessity for the IAF. This radar is indigenously produced and only a limited number of parts are imported. HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) has developed India’s self-made attack helicopter named Rudra (an armed version of the Dhruv Helicopter). The Air Force has already received the MRSAM (Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles) at Air Force Station, Jaisalmer. It is a joint venture of DRDO and the Israel Aerospace Industry. It will provide air defence support to the ground assets of the military.
For the Indian Navy, former electronic platforms such as the Kite, and Ajanta have been duly upgraded which allows for detection of the enemy without compromising the position. The navy will be armed to the teeth by the Project 75 Scorpene Submarines delivered by France to India. These have added stealth capabilities and these submarines just need to resurface only once and can remain underwater for weeks. This is the basic and core concept of the Independent Air Propulsion System under Project 75. The project will also develop a series of aircraft carriers for the Navy.
Atmanirbhar in Defence is not just limited to the armed forces, it is also for the paramilitary forces of India. The BSF especially will receive sentry guns, detection and tracking of tunnels and even Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Though India is behind China as far as AI is concerned, Bharat has made some strides in the AI-related field including Face Recognition Devices. In the sphere of space warfare, DRDO is in the process of building anti-satellites along with kinetic weaponry. The self-reliance policy will also include restructuring of the Ordnance Factories.
In the near future, a successor policy called Atmanirbhar -II will be promulgated by the Indian Government. Two aspirational projects or Defence Corridors are planned to be built in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It can be said that Atmanirbhar Policy especially in defence has been and will be a boon to “Bharat”.