Come May 2019, the election results will provide a well-defined clarity on the future of Indian defence sector. It would be interesting to watch, whether the initial success of breaking the inertia in indigenous defence manufacturing will gather renewed momentum or it will once again witness an abrupt slowdown. In any case, it will be a defining moment for the defence industry.
The recent events (successful DRDO’s Mission Shakti – ASAT and ISRO’s EMISAT launch) brought to the forefront India’s quest and desire to have strategic independence, and also showcased its indigenous technological capabilities. Now, the real test will be to stay focussed and move ahead strategically to further refine its prowess in designing, developing and producing indigenous defence equipment to attain high-level of deterrence capabilities and become self-reliant.
Moving ahead, the focus should be on identifying the invisible barriers that have been playing spoilsport in defence preparedness. Despite reforms in the defence acquisition process, the required stimulation in investments in armament research, new materials, high-end and sophisticated electronics, precision engineering etc is still missing. Long-term investment in these areas is critical for preparing the foundation of sophisticated weapon manufacturing.
Taking stock of the current geo-political situation – globally and in the Asia Pacific region, India should reset its priorities and quickly implement the initiatives that complement its research competence and build the manufacturing capacity. It is not an easy task, yet attempts have to be made, may be under compulsion, in order to be a relevant force in the present global order.
Similarly, special attention has to be given to (i) defence budgeting – both for allocations and expenditure requirement, (ii) long-term order flow and demand assurance to indigenous defence manufacturers, especially the MSMEs and SMEs, (iii) dedicated efforts to create and build science & technology, research and manufacturing capacity that is world-class and lead to the development of competent, competitive, robust and vibrant indigenous defence industry and (iv) avoid getting trapped into the lure of fixing the short-term risks and potential threats through import.
Despite many challenges, India has optimism, can do it and will do it provided it harnesses the right attitude of its talented millennial workforce. All they need is a compatible environment and seamless channels to unleash their innovative and creative ideas. Efforts should be made to provide the defence PSUs and defence research organisations the much-needed autonomy to chart out their future growth strategy in competitive scenario and collaborate with the start-ups, private sector to leverage on the overall combined competence and capacity.
Let India take a vow….an aim to create a common platform for the armed forces, researchers and industry to deliberate, discuss and jointly work on the specific defence requirements of national interest and in a mission mode to achieve the desired results within specific timeframe.
Ajit Kumar Thakur
Editor & Business Director