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Making INDIA Self-reliant in Defence

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Let us trail back to 1950s, when the then Prime Minister of India made announcements for industrialisation in all the sectors. The avowed intention was a rapid growth of the country. As with every other sector in the interactions and spinoffs that they entail, Defence too plays an integral role in the industrialisation and growth of a nation state. The invasion of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan immediately after partition underscored the reality of our vulnerabilities. But it was the Chinese aggression of 1962 in the high Himalayas that drove the leadership to give due importance to the multifarious requirements of the Indian armed forces.

It had become very apparent that Defence production had to keep pace with growth in other sectors of the economy to ensure that war was not thrust upon the nation without adverse fallout on the aggressor. Hence the establishment of Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Ordnance Factory Board and the many Defence Public Sector Undertakings were assigned specific tasks to produce specific military wherewithal required by the armed forces of the nation.

The creation of the Indian Space Research Organisation and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre were the emanations of visionary leaders. Both have contributed immensely to the Indian doctrine of minimum nuclear deterrence which has become a cornerstone of national defence and security. The Chinese aggression of 1962 nudged and provoked our leaders with the grim realities of the defence production sector’s inadequacy to ensure inviolability of territorial integrity of the nation.

Foreign governments and arms manufactures used the Kashmir issue to manipulate security environment to exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan by pumping latest weaponry into the Pakistani arsenal. India was forced to try and keep pace and procure weapons from wherever it could. The former Soviet Union proved to be a good friend and was generous in permitting licensed production of latest equipment. But this arrangement, bereft of a matching indigenisation effort, led to overdependence on foreign sources of military supplies to the extent of seventy per cent of the total holdings.

The promise of ‘leapfrogging’ foreign technology and creating indigenous weapon platforms has foundered on the rocks of a mismatch between the engines and chassis of two of India’s most prestigious defence projects for the creation of light combat aircraft and the indigenous main battle tank. Dependence on foreign engines in two of its most important strike platforms has compelled India to remain dependent on foreign sources for the most important component of a weapons platform, the engine. Whether this state of affairs is the result of a deep-laid conspiracy … is a matter for scrutiny!

We have seen a rapid growth in the past five decades in almost every sector in India like automobiles, telecommunications, health etc but any major transformation in the defence and security industry is still elusive. This is a shocking realisation for a country like India which ironically has an alarming internal and external security environment.

This is not the time to discuss deficiencies of our system! India urgently needs best possible solutions to overcome these shortfalls which instantaneously demand a tenacious road map and I believe, that the announcement of ‘Make In India’ campaign by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi is a commendable move from the government. The responsibility of making this initiative a roaring success lies on the shoulders of all stakeholders … Indian and global.

This edition of DSA shares candid and unflinching ruminations of senior leaders of Indian and global defence companies and endeavours to create a bridge between the stakeholders to develop Indian Defence Industrial Base without further delay.

Jai Hind


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