Thursday, July, 18,2024

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India has one of the world’s largest armed forces with a strength of over 14.4 lakhs (1.44 million) active personnel, since it has the largest unsettled borders with two nuclear powered neighbours. Also, it has high defence spending for operational readiness of such large force. Hence, the Indian defence budget is the third largest next to USA and China, though they are far ahead. Undoubtedly, the defence and aerospace industry is a strategically important sector in India.
In “AZAADI KA AMRIT MAHOTSAV” we find the indigenous defence manufacturing ascending on a path of growth and glory. The success stories of India’s Defence Production include ship building including aircraft carrier, Brahmos supersonic missiles, Tejasmulti role fighter aircraft, attack and utility combat helicopters, anti-satellite weapon systems and a wide array of radars, missiles, drones, unarmed combat vehicles and armaments.

The vision of the government is to achieve a turnover of $25 Bn including export of $5 Bn in Aerospace and Defence by 2025. Over the next 5-7 years, the Government of India plans to spend $130 Bn for fleet modernization across all armed services. In line with the self-reliant India initiative, the share of domestic capital procurement, which was earmarked at 64% in 2021-22 has been enhanced to 68% of the Capital Acquisition Budget of the Defence Services for FY 2022-23.

To give a fillip to the domestic defence industry, the government aims to ensure transparency, predictability and ease of doing business by creating a robust eco-system and forming industry friendly policies. Towards this end the government has taken steps to bring about de-licensing, deregulation, export promotion and foreign investment liberalization. Ministry of Defence has also notified three ‘Positive Indigenization lists’ comprising of 411 defence equipments to be manufactured locally. Additionally, to promote export and liberalize foreign investments FDI in Defence Sector has been enhanced up to 74% through the Automatic Route and 100% by government route. The following policy changes are noteworthy
Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP 2022)
Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP 2020
Strategic Partnership Model
Re-Organisation Of Ordnance Factories

In line with ‘Make in India’ thought, new welcome development has been the establishment of two defence corridors at Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These two corridors shall focus upon development of indigenous manufacturing and in turn become the springboard for defence manufacturing. These are
Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC)

Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor (TNDIC)

The Indian Armed Forces modernization plan is realigning itself to ‘Make in India’ initiative. The ‘Atmanirbhar’ vision has empowered the Army, Air Force and Indian Navy, to procure diverse equipment and technologies through indigenous sources, without compromising the operational efficiency. A large number of procurements worth Rs 47,000 crore from Indian industry were concluded in 2021–22. The quantum of contracts that went to domestic units in the last three years has been the highest ever

The defence production industry faces the following major challenges
High Dependence on Imports
Narrow Private Participation.
Lack of critical state of the art Technology
Overlapping jurisdictions between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Industrial Promotion.
Fragile relationship between R&D institutions, production agencies (public or private) and end-users.

There is a silver lining and defence production has been looking up in the last decade. We can feel proud about the fact that defence exports grew by 334% in last five years and India is now exporting to over 75 countries. With Government initiatives, the expenditure on defence procurement from foreign sources which used to be 46% of the overall expenditure has reduced to 36% in the last four years i.e. 2018-19 to 2021-22. In 2020-2021, 74% of contracts by Army were awarded to Indian Vendors, which is praise worthy. Government of India has set a target of Rs 1.75 lakh crore of defence production by 2025, which includes export of INR 35,000 crore.

‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is a ‘feel good factor’ but the success of Atmanirbhar Bharat will depend much on the right blend of policy implementations to fix the inherent challenges, as given out. India will require total focus and sincere efforts in line with “Nation First” attitude to reap the best benefits, in future. There are shining examples of exclusive brilliance and the future seems to be bright, in-spite of a sluggish start. The defence industry took a long time to start toddling but now it has started walking. With the right support and initiatives, we will soon find it taking giant strides, to glory and fame. BRAVO! JAI HIND!!

MAJ GEN CP SINGH (RETD)  The writer is a scholar soldier accredited with MA, MSc, LLB, MBA, M Phil (Def Mgt) and M Phil (International Strategic Affairs)

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