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Sunday April 05, 2020

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours!

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed ‘Make In India’ as one of the core initiatives of his government. All departments and ministries echo his sentiment to make India into a manufacturing hub. It is in fact the mantra of the current BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. It is really the governing principle. The driving force, the vision, being that only an expanded manufacturing base will see India emerge as a global economic power. Even as the services sector has provided immense benefit to the country, the unrealised dream of India as a manufacturing power holds back the country from fulfilling its true potential.

‘Make In India’ cannot fully succeed without the emergence of a military industrial complex in the country. Even as other sectors take small, hesitant, but important steps towards realising that dream, the defence and security industries remain beset with problems unique to them. The potential is there and it is enormous. But to achieve that potential requires greater effort, clarity of purpose, consistent policies, incentives and suitable taxation regimes. It is not a question of asking for the moon, simply giving a boost to a sector that has always played a vital role in safeguarding national interests, but at a cost that is uneconomical to the country.

A vibrant military industrial complex will pave the way for providing employment to thousands of bright young Indians who want to play a part in making India a success story. Employment to the youth is key to a safe and secure India, for it is unemployment that leads to endless social and political problems. And there are enough examples in India to provide all the data to prove that point. Expanding military industries will provide just the right outlet for job opportunities to the talented Indian youth who now have to look at other sources of work, or even other countries to fulfil their ambition of working in the high-technology fields.

A military industrial complex is entirely dependent on a dynamic research and development culture in the country. It is alright to transplant technologies from other countries and manufacture their products in India, for it would still be providing manufacturing capabilities. But these wouldn’t be Indian facilities, simply a transfer of technology arrangement. This has always been happening and it hasn’t gotten the country far. It continues to cost India valuable foreign exchange to transfer that technology and there are recurring costs to pay for the licenses involved. And most important of all is the fact that it doesn’t add to Indian knowledge, research, design or development capabilities. Therefore, it is vital to encourage a research and development culture in the country as a stepping stone to an emerging national military industrial complex.

Indian owned and managed military industries will greatly help in the vision of self-sufficiency in the country. There is no pride in being the largest importer of weaponry in the world, even when the country can succeed in sending a Mars orbiter mission. This obviously means the talent and capabilities are there in the country. What is lacking is a consistent set of policies to realise that vision of military industries making in India. The government would do well to put in place a tax regime that encourages increased outlays for defence research and development. Incentives to set up the related industries and encourage the commercialisation of various defence and security products that have applications for the civilian world. For all that to happen the Indian private sector has to be the key participant. An Indian military industrial complex is a non-starter if the domestic private sector has no place in it. For far too long it has been the monopoly of the state and its limitations are plain to the eye. The vibrant military industrial complex has not emerged and neither has all the talent been tapped. For that to happen the state sector has to shed its stand of doing all and providing all. It has not been able to thus far and it will not be able to in the foreseeable future. Only a level playing field that does not discriminate between the state and private and which allows talent to flower, will enable India realise its dreams. Of making in India, by Indians and providing for Indian needs. That is why the time for a military industrial complex is now, right away.

Manvendra Singh


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