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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (April 2016)

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Numerous Indian citizens have been detained within the country and outside, for promoting or actually joining the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is also called Daesh, in Arabic, the name which its leadership apparently hates. Others simply call it Islamic State. Either way, whatever names it carries, the fact that it exists and that its support within India is enough to draw the attention of authorities makes it a threat. By every yardstick that can be applied, the IS is a global terrorist organisation that has a nihilistic world view and for the fulfillment of which it is capable of undertaking the most ghastly actions.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean blindly accepting anything and everything on offer. There has to be a well thought out analysis of what the country needs, how much and by when. From that assessment begins the process of equipping the armed forces, through domestic, international or such other means that fulfil the demands which exist. There must be a holistic study of what the national requirements are currently and likely to be in the mid to long term future. That study, then, shapes equipment policies and national security budgeting and planning. Which then opens up various avenues, growth, employment, opportunity, technology and all through defence.

Make in India has been launched as the test case programme of the current Government of India. It covers various aspects of the economy, production and investment opportunities for global players to partner with and in, India. Once a no go area, the defence sector too has been thrown open to international players to invest in and manufacture in India. Indian players have been encouraged to partner with global defence manufacturing companies and begin making domestically. This opportunity opens up the sector dramatically, just as it provides for large scale investments and employment domestically.

There is a critical need to cooperate with global defence manufacturing companies that have evinced interest in India. This is essential in order to overcome equipment shortfalls from which the armed forces are suffering as well as bringing a completion to long pending domestic defence programmes. Nowhere is international cooperation critical than in the need to find partners for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft project. The Tejas has been flying for more than a decade and has crossed numerous milestones in its exciting journey. But it still requires some help in making it a more complete aircraft.

The missing component is its engine. And which is a technology India has for some strange reasons not been able to master. It has been able to send a craft to Mars, but jet engine propulsion still seems to elude Indian researchers and designers. All of this can change when Indian and international manufactures begin cooperating. Despite decades of trying, India has yet not mastered the jet engine. Experienced international players can help, but for that India has to make the conditions. Nobody is waiting in queues to enter Indian defence manufacturing unless the country makes the environment more conducive.

The defence manufacturing sector can only grow in India if the domestic research and development monopoly is shaken. The Defence Research & Development Organisation currently controls with a know-all grip. There is no doubt that the DRDO has contributed to national security when the conditions were far less conducive than they currently are. In those bleak days, the DRDO made efforts to keep India going. That determination and resilience cannot be ignored for sure. But times have changed and with global political conditions likely to remain as dynamic as they are, it is unlikely India will have to face those bleak days again. Unlikely, but not impossible.

It is vital, therefore, that the various Indian private sector players partner with their global business allies. Bring manufacturing to India, create employment opportunities and further domestic defence capabilities while equipping the armed forces with first rate weaponry. But in all this euphoria, it mustnot be forgotten that at the end of the day equipment made in India is only good for the country if it can use it the way it wants, when it wants and against whomever it wants. Any restrictions are unwelcome and unnecessary. So, when Indians partner with global players to manufacture defence equipment in India it is critical that control keys remain domestic. For those are game changers.


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