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A face of India's Defence and Security

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A sound defence industrial base takes years of effort and investment. Effort involves putting together a vibrant and dynamic team coupled with raising the necessary infrastructure. Investment in research, hiring the brightest minds and developing cutting edge technologies produces the end result of a complete defence cycle. But all of this is only possible when the country has a well thought out long-term defence planning and vision. After all it takes a lot of time to develop the talent, put together the infrastructure, conduct the research and finally develop the state-of-the-art product. For all this to happen the country first needs to think through its national security strategy, develop a national security doctrine, both of which finally produce a national security policy.


India, alas, is the prime example of a country lacking in all these aspects of defence. There isn’t a defined national security strategy, one that is based on logic, regional and the global environment, ambitions and goals that are achievable. Far too little intellectual effort has been made over the decades in working out a national security doctrine. The end result is that the entire defence planning process lacks planning and foresight. There is in fact no planning. So there is no policy. And where there is no policy India lacks the vision that it needs to achieve its goals. It is after all policy that makes clear capability and intention, the ultimate cocktail that determines success.

Success is something that India has sorely lacked while setting up a viable defence industrial sector in the country. In all the years since independence and the various five year plans, annual budgets and so on, the country has floundered seriously. So in the early and vibrant part of the 21st century India has the unenviable record of being the world’s largest importer of weapons and combat related systems. Despite producing precision instruments, world-class satellites and their launch systems, reasonably good automobiles, first rate software and bio-technology research, India has still not been able to design, develop and manufacture an automatic combat rifle of global standards. The INSAS family, despite years of effort and production, now seems to be readied for the museums. And India will approach the world arms producers for the most basic and important weapon.

This has been the track record for a the last few decades. Early efforts at combat aircraft and tank design were prematurely stopped and the baby was thrown out along with the bath water. So typical then and expected now as well. All of this is because the government hasn’t allowed anyone to enter the defence sector as an independent designer, researcher and manufacturer. The monopoly of ideas and plans has resulted in not enough of both being developed. The government has an endless stream of money to throw and is not accountable either for its failures or its baby and bath water policies. It is well nigh time to sit back, take stock and prepare a blueprint for creating a sustainable defence industrial sector.

The most important contribution in this has to come from the private sector, domestic and international. In a rapidly globalising world and increasing policy integration there is no reason to exclude international companies from setting up base in India with domestic partnerships. The bogey of national security being compromised is simply, a bogey. In this digital age of satellites and constant surveillance there is little to hide in terms of capability. All of the best tanks and combat aircraft mean nothing if there is no intention of using them. And intention is the most closely guarded national secret in any case. No amount of surveillance can detect what intention lies behind a weapon system. That is the sole prerogative of the political and military leadership. What they need are weapons of capability.

How and when they’re used is the secret of intention.
It is time that the Defence Research and Development Organisation undergoes a serious scrutiny of its functioning and record. Is encouraged to tie-up with domestic and international players in developing systems and promotes their manufacturing in India. In the meantime private players must also be allowed the freedom to enter the sector fully. Monopolies are never a good idea.

 


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