In the wake of the Pandemic of 2020, every industry has been very badly affected. Many manufacturing units have either shut down or have come to a stand-still. Import and export also plummited to almost nil for quite a long time. The entire world economy had been shaken due to this Covid-19 pandemic; India was no exception. But the silver lining during these bad times came from the top leadership of the country. Our Prime Minister understood the need of the hour and the current and the forthcoming challenges very well, and thus, announced a new dictum —“Vocal For Local” — covering all the industries. It is for every industry, be small or large, to adopt this dictum at the earliest.
After Independence, India has been primarily dependent on foreign procurement for its defence and security needs. Hoping to cash in on a peace dividend, Indian leaders neglected the defence sector till they were rudely woken by the Chinese aggression of 1962. Post-haste, the foundations of a military industrial complex exclusively in the public sector was laid on the bedrock of licence production of foreign weapons with the promise of “leapfrogging” technology indigenously and move towards self-reliance and thence, on to self-sufficiency. That promise was never fulfilled except in missiles as demonstrated by the recent series of successful tests of several different types of missiles.
It is gratifying to note that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has made sweeping changes intended to encourage the private sector to participate in the new defence architecture. At the same time the public sector defence undertakings are being revamped to innovate and produce weapons and war material of quality.
Though it may take some time but good efforts have been started by the Government of India and the Ministry of Defence. Some 101 defence technologies and products which have been imported so far will now not be allowed to be imported from December 2020 to give fillip to the “Vocal for Local” process. It is expected that dependence on foreign sources will come to an end at least in these items.
The private sector has now been presented with an opportunity to live up to the oft-repeated aspirations. It is also a challenge to ensure that indigenous military hardware becomes available to the armed forces as early as possible and quality is assured. Having opened the gateway of opportunity, the government will have to ensure ease of doing business and be prepared with an effective programme of “handholding” to lead the fledgling private sector into the defence arena where reliability is the touchstone. Several “mini ratnas” from the private sector have already created production lines in their current establishments to take on defence contracts. The list of banned items is big enough to allow for picking and choosing.
In this edition, our eminent contributors have discussed the challenges and the possible solutions to attain indigenous defence production. I am sure that you will get many new insights on this subject through this dedicated edition on “Vocal for Local: Indian Defence Production”. We wish the project great success!