August 15, 2022
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'Make in India' may fail in defence sector
India’s tryst with creating a robust military industrial complex (MIC) to become self-reliant in indigenous armament production may take decades to turn into a reality. Now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking into the core sector of defence production very differently. Perhaps he realized even before becoming the PM that great power preeminence for India will come at a cost. Unless India produces futuristic weapons and access state of the art technologies, the geo strategic power play will not be in India’s favor. Only economic power will reduce India into another Japan-a non threatening power. Thus, the PM has created a vision ‘Make in India’ for both defence and civil areas of technological applications. Although ‘Make in India’ in civil sector may succeed due to India’s inherent strength, but the same ‘Make in India’ in defence sector will fail with present approach. The NDA government wants to do a miracle in defence manufacturing by way of resetting the policy formulations. It has hardly any taker so far. Although MoD bureaucrats think they have done a lot to promote defence manufacturing under the NDA government, in reality it has proved to futile. Thus, no company has shown any credible interest to invest and bring technology into defence sector. The problem for Prime Minister Modi is that he wants to go for a bigger dream and think out of the box but he has nobody to implement in an out of the box format. If the goal is unconventional then the strategy and tactic should be unconventional as well. But Modi wants to implement a gigantic and innovative goal through same type of bureaucrats who are pessimist to the core of their heart and lack any innovation. If the same set of bureaucrats can be useful for NDA government and implement ‘Make in India’, then they would have been useful to the previous UPA government as well. That was not the case. They were involved in massive corruption and totally bankrupt in ideas. They gave their last exam for the job in the 80s.

Today almost 75 per cent of India’s defence services and hardware needs are coming from abroad. That means the present set of bureaucrats have failed to make India’s MIC a success story. The offset program India had introduced has totally failed. Not even a single story is worth mentioning about the defence offset program. Similarly, the DPP which was introduced with much fanfare by the former Defence Minister A K Antony has proved to be a total disaster. Indeed, the DPP and offset clauses were misused by these same set of bureaucrats who wanted palm greasing if a file has to be cleared. The names of these honorable men are well documented in Agusta case. In fact, like Delhi Police they were paid bribes as per their ranks and special utility to the offering company. The ‘Make in India’ has serious flaws in its present format. Some elements in the NDA government think with a mere slogan one can achieve all the great things. Political slogans or vote catching abilities are different from experimenting with laws of nature. Technology comes out of such initiatives of course with other strings attached such as market prospect and user acceptability. The signal that ‘Make in India’ is still facing resistance from the MoD and others was clear when the Defence Minister surrendered to the will of the bureaucrats who leaked info about limit of FDI. The government had earlier agreed for a full 100 per cent FDI in defence but later it created various slabs. Now, one fails to understand how the MoD is competent to determine whether a particular product is state of the art or not and then it can allow 100 per cent FDI.

This in reality creates confusion in the minds of an investor or a company whether it is going to be same old story or something really new. The government is new but the people who will implement are old hearts. Now, if Prime Minister Modi wants ‘Make in India’ to succeed he should strike down the MoD babus. First, India needs to go for Made in India and then aim for Make in India. The FDI limit in defence should be flat 100 per cent, no bar should apply. There is no time for education and understanding. One has to act quickly. India has already lost precious 10 years under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh. If Modi wants to wait and experiment then the vision to make self reliant in defence needs will fail. The ‘Make in India’ should be linked with futuristic R&D. The money for R&D should never be given to DRDO or government agencies. That will create further complications. The DRDO should be disbanded and a new structure should be created in critical areas of technological applications such as missile development and other weapons systems. The DRDO should refrain from making shoes, garments, vegetables and glasses. The R&D should be linked with anything that can be produced in India. Yet, the government must ensure strong IPR regime that will give confidence to foreign giants that their product will be protected if they come to India. Yet, India should also be very clear about threats it will face now and in future.