The Legacy mindset in the Indian Defence Industry

 By Ramandeep Singh Sandhu

A new wave of Self Reliance was started by the current government, with the MAKE IN INDIA campaign which was started in 2014.The concept was carried forward to Defence capital procurement. The DPP 2016 and its various modifications have been making the path smoother for Defence procurement. Multiple methods and options have been instituted for procurement like Sumo moto, make two procedure and the newly set up GeM website or Government e Market. These have all been set up to boost both Capital and Revenue Procurement in Defence. Despite, all these brilliant initiatives we are far from self-reliance. There are a lot of legacy factors which plague our procurement in Defence. The mindset of the government and the industry both need a drastic change. The government and its officials are still moving at a pace which is plagued by the mindset that the time for a Capital procurement is 5 Years. This timeline in today’s day and age is unacceptable as today the government is moving towards digitisation, but we have still not switched to true Digital working. The age-old Noting sheets and prolonged approval on paper which is time consuming is a thing of the past in the Corporate World but in the Government offices it is still the Norm. This is also due to the trust deficit at every stage of our procurement process. It is due to the corrupt dealings of the past that we are unable to clear any noting without fear and prejudice. This is the old system of working.

The Indian Defence industry had also hailed the Government initiative of  Make In India but it is not geared up to meet the demand of the Three services in terms of Defence Equipment. The DRDO and its various subsidiaries have held the sole responsibility of providing Defence equipment and have been supported by the government. This has led to non-development of any substantial Defence industry in India. It has been accepted as a norm that either we will import independently or via the DRDO when it comes to Defence Equipment in India. Even after 5 years of Make India we are still importing equipment, or we are trying to establish Joint Ventures.

The industry is known to have a large educated work force but the focus has been in The IT industry as the government has been making it the priority for getting FDI in the industry by promoting the IT industry and related businesses. To suddenly expect the industry to adopt to Defence products and development is a little unrealistic as it takes decades of research and development to make and perfect Defence products. The quality of Technology and products required in Defence are of a very high level .Today we don’t have the infrastructure to make these products which are world class. In our college education system we don’t have Defence Equipment or Technology as a study subject so to ask an electronic or mechanical engineer to Develop a Weapon is asking for the impossible as he has to start from scratch .We also don’t have any small part manufacturers who make weapon parts as part of mass production, they are making parts of weapons as part of a contract or special requirement. In such an environment and with such poor Defence industry infrastructure it is impossible for the Make in India initiative to flourish. The entire industry has to change its mindset and the government has to invest large amounts of money to build infrastructure fortune  Defence industry.Till the government has the global business and exports in mind this is unlikely to happen as our internal requirements are not enough in numbers to make the government go for large investment in the Defence industry. The quality of our products is another issue and unless we are able to make world class products the Government will keep on procuring Defence products from friendly foreign nations.

The problem is clear it’s a mismatch of our Expectations in the Three Services and the Capacity Of our Defence industry. The Government is responsible to bridge this gap. Is the government doing enough to bridge this gap the clear answer is no it is not doing enough. The fact that we are going for procurement of Defence products worth millions from various countries in the name of the age old cliché of OP REQUIREMENTS is testimony to the fact that we are not willing to give our local Defence industry a chance. To give a chance to our Local Defence industry we need to be Patient and offer all possible infrastructure and technology to develop World class Indigenous products. The DRDO and the Government will have to change the Legacy mindset of our forefathers and TRUST our Indian Defence industry to do the job.

Till we don’t change this mindset of a QUICK FIX to log term problems we will not be able to truly achieve Make in India. If we want true self-reliance and not spend precious foreign exchange on emergent procurement, we will have to invest in our Defence industry for the long term.

Today the norm based on our Legacy is to go for readily available Foreign Equipment in Defence. Both the Government and the industry are party to this regressive mindset . The industry is not willing to invest large investment for limited quantity of products and are not geared up to compete with the Global leaders in Defence industry. The government is also not willing to create a large Defence industry and infrastructure to go for Defence Self Reliance as they do not trust a nascent Defence industry capable to create long term economic advancement of the country in Defence sales.

This lack of commitment on both sides is leading to procurement of our Defence products from foreign countries and we are only pushing Make in India in the small ticket procurement and its more of a show piece of government rather than invest on ground. Yes the Joint ventures are useful as they will encourage the Defence industry and generate revenue and jobs but it is not enough. We need to boost Research and development in Defence industry and focus on making the core technology of Defence products in India as until we can do that, we will always be slave to Foreign imports and IPR issues. We need to Chand our Legacy mindset and become manufacturers and not just be production agents of Foreign development Technologies. Till we are able to develop the products from the Ground UP and see them through from the Womb to the Tomb we will never be truly self-reliant.

All is not lost yet, and a good BEGINNING has been made but we have a long way to go yet. Ironically in the words of the famous poet Robert Frost. We have miles to go before we Sleep. This is true for our Defence industry and Self Reliance. And our present government has started a good initiative of Make in India and should not lose patience and Trust, invest and support our Defence industry in achieving true self-reliance. This will save foreign exchange, generate jobs and boost industry. The biggest advantage will be in The Three Services where we would be able to shed the shackles of Legacy mindset and foreign Equipment. This leads to Faith in our Defence industry and not running to Foreign powers during times of CRISIS. The future is in our hands and if we don’t shape it deliberately, we will be doomed to live in the past so Legacy need to CHANGE.