Atmanirbhar Bharat is reinventing the defence sector
Due to the policies of the government in the defence sector, especially in defence production, the country is becoming increasingly self-reliant. Of all approvals accorded for modernisation of armed forces in 2020-21, 87% were from the 'Make in India' category. India has a domestic defence industry of which 80% is government owned.
The public sector includes DRDO and its 50 labs, 4 defence shipyards, 12 defence PSUs. India has a new defence procurement, acquisition and manufacturing policy to reduce imports and enhance domestic manufacturing. India is poised to expand its footprint in foreign defence markets. The world has taken note of the BrahMos deal. And several other Asian and African countries could be potential buyers of the missile.
There are several other indigenous platforms that hold good export potential. The focus on boosting exports comes along with a renewed thrust on indigenisation of weapons and systems. India's defence exports have recorded nearly a six-fold increase between 2017 and 2021, growing from ₹1,520 crore to ₹8,435 crore. Defence items being exported by India include missiles, the advanced light helicopters, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, surveillance systems and a variety of radars.
In the Indian context, the nation continues to face both conventional and non-conventional threats from its two inimical neighbours, the threats manifesting the entire spectrum of conflict on land, in the maritime domain, in the air and in space and outer space. This speaks to the need to have a strong defence architecture to negate all such threats.
However, despite having a large defence public sector, there have been serious weaknesses in the indigenous production of land systems, as well as platforms for the Navy and the IAF which has impacted India’s defence capability. Since the last seven years, however, we are seeing a distinct change in government policies, which are now aiming to establish a strong and vibrant defence industrial base. Self-reliance in the aviation sector is vital for India, to reduce its dependency for advanced platforms from external agencies.
Sources said, It was tragic that India abandoned its first indigenous fighter aircraft, the HF 24 Marut, manufactured by HAL, on extraneous grounds. Had we continued to develop the aircraft with upgrades, we could possibly have been one of the major powers in the aviation sector today. The defence sector is gradually being opened to the private sector, which is the need of the hour.
While a great deal of time and resources have been expended on the public sector, it still lacks the capacity to meet even fifty percent of the requirements of the Armed Forces. To reduce imports, it is vital that the private sectors be roped in, in a substantial manner.
The second issue pertains to leadership. The Ordnance Factory Board has been dissolved and the 41 ordnance factories it controlled have been converted into seven defence public sector undertakings (DPSU).
These seven new DPSUs to be effective cannot be run on the leadership style as existed earlier. Perhaps the time has come to infuse them with leadership from the corporate world, injecting into the system fresh ideas and accountability and a work culture which is focussed on results, output and profitability.
If the seven new DPSUs can be made to perform like the private sector, it will give a huge boost to the Atma Nirbhar Programme in the defence sector, especially as the government has opened the defence sector to exports. Finally, a lot of enabling legislation has been made and the private sector is gradually becoming an important player in India’s defence sector.
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