Self-reliance in defence

  • IASbaba
  • February 2, 2023
  • 0
Science and Technology
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  • Aatmarnirbharta” (self-reliance) and “Nari Shakti” (women power) were the two themes on display at the Republic Day parade on Thursday — by many of the marching contingents as well as the different tableaux.
  • India ranks fourth among 12 Indo-Pacific nations in self-reliant arms production capabilities, according to a study released this month by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a widely respected independent resource on global security. China tops the list, Japan is second, South Korea is in third place, and Pakistan is at number 8.

Need for self-reliance

  • In the last five years, India has been the world’s top arms importer with a 15 per cent global share of imports.
  • Nearly 50 per cent of the capital acquisition budget is spent on imports.
  • This excludes many “indigenous” items assembled by Ordnance Factories (OFs) and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) where a high percentage of raw materials and sub-systems are imported.
  • In 1995, a committee under APJ Abdul Kalam, the then scientific advisor to the defence minister, had recommended that India should improve its indigenisation content from 30 per cent to 70 per cent by 2005.
  • Although no official data exists, the self-reliance in defence production is still estimated to be less than 35 per cent.
  • About 90 per cent of domestic defence manufacturing is currently done in the public sector, by the 9 DPSUs and 39 OFs.
  • Since 2001, when private participation was allowed in defence sector, 222 letters of intents and industrial licences have been issued to around 150 firms. Of these, only 46 firms have commenced production so far.

Current status

  • Globally, 80 per cent of components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircraft are made by MSMEs.
  • In India, more than 6,000 MSMEs are currently supplying components and sub-assemblies to the DPSUs, OFs, DRDO and private firms.
  • The defence manufacturing sector currently employs more than 2 lakh people in India.
  • This size of military industrial workforce is similar to nations like the UK and France, which are the top defence manufacturers.
  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by the defence minister, has approved procurement of equipment for more than Rs 1,17,830 crore during the UPA-II regime.
  • Another Rs 1,50,000 crore worth of approvals have been given by DAC under the NDA government.
  • A modelling of 35 selected projects cleared by DAC, along with their likely dates of induction — from 2012 to 2023 — has been done by a foreign manufacturer.
  • The government policy now aims to achieve 70 per cent indigenisation in defence products by 2027.
  • This translates into an Indian defence market of Rs 87,000 crore by 2022 and Rs 1,65,000 crore by 2027.
  • It presents a huge opportunity to the DPSUs, foreign manufacturers, Indian private players and MSMEs.


  • Low R&D investment Historically, India has not invested enough in the national research and development (R&D) effort.
  • As per data collated by the World Bank, India has been able to allocate only 0.66 per cent of GDP (2018) towards R&D, while the world average is 2.63 per cent.
  • The comparable individual R&D allocation (per cent of GDP) for some other nations is as follows: Israel 5.44; USA 3.45; Japan 3.26; Germany 3.14; China 2.4; and Turkey 1.09.
  • Low domestic competence Regrettably, India does not yet have the domestic competence to fully design and manufacture any significant combat weapon/platform and is dependent on the foreign supplier for the critical components that lie at the core of the combat index of the equipment in question.
  • Limitation of the industry Unlike other sectors, defence industry is a monopsony in which the single buyer, the government, is also the authority laying down procurement policies.
  • This makes active government support essential for private defence manufacturers, a fact borne out by the experience of countries — the US, Israel, Brazil and France — where private defence industry has flourished.
  • Import dependence Thus, while it is commendable that India is now going to manufacture the C295 transport aircraft in a collaboration with AirBus, France, the reality is that the engine, avionics, landing gear, etc, will come from abroad and the integration will be done by the Indian entity.
  • Composite combat and manufacturing capabilities have not been reviewed and honed appropriately. Thus, while India now claims that it will soon become a major arms exporter, the composition of such inventory leans towards the “soft” category (clothing, helmets, surveillance equipment).
  • India missed the industrial design and manufacturing bus, a national competence demonstrated by nations like South Korea and China, over the last five decades.
  • Technological advances have made the design and manufacture of the semiconductor chip the new currency of national prosperity and military power.
  • The US and China are now locked in intense competition in this domain and India is yet to acquire a profile that would be deemed relevant.
  • Paradoxically, Indian brain power is very visible in the global semiconductor/chip fabrication effort but more at the lower end of the food chain, often as employees of the global venture capitalists.

Indigenous initiatives

  • iDEX Launched in April 2018, iDEX aims to achieve self – reliance and foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia
  • DefExpo 2022 held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat drew attention to the need for India to acquire the appropriate degree of “aatmanirbharata” (self-reliance) in the defence sector and the arduous path ahead.
  • Commissioning of the indigenously-designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant
  • The firing of an SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) from the INS Arihant
  • The radical decision to award the manufacture of a military transport aircraft (C 295) to a major private sector entity
  • The conclusion of a deal with Russia to manufacture a Kalashnikov-type light weapon/small arms in India.
  • The induction of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-made Light Combat Helicopter Prachand into the Indian Air Force in 2022
  • The indigenous 105-mm Indian Field Guns (IFG) replaced the Army’s British-era 25-pounder guns — which traditionally offered the symbolic 21-gun salute
  • The Army’s mechanised column comprised three MBT Arjun MK-I, one Nag Missile System (NAMIS), two BMP 2/2K, three Quick Reaction Fighting Vehicles (QRFV), two K-9 Vajra Self Propelled Howitzer Guns, one Brahmos missile, two 10m Short Span Bridges, a Mobile Microwave Node and Mobile Network Centre, and two Akash missile systems.
  • The Navy’s tableau showcased a woman air crew of Dornier aircraft (flying overhead), highlighting the all-women crew of a surveillance sortie undertaken last year
  • The new indigenous Nilgiri class ship, a Dhruv helicopter deploying marine commandos, and three models of autonomous unmanned systems being developed under IDEX-Sprint Challenge.

Women in defence

  • As many as 108 women officers in the Army are set to be cleared for the rank of Colonel (selection grade) by January 22 by a special selection board, which will make them eligible to command units and troops in their respective arms and services for the first time.
  • At republic day parade, Both the Navy and the IAF contingents were led by women officers – Lt Cdr Disha Amrith and Sqn Ldr Sindhu Reddy respectively.
  • The Assam Rifles marching contingent had an equal number of men and women personnel. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) also had an all-women contingent led by Assistant Commandant Poonam Gupta.
  • A team of “Daredevils”, motorcycle riders from the Corps of Signals, was co-led by a woman officer.
  • Women also occupied pride of place in many of the 23 tableaux that were part of the parade this year, including those of Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tripura.
  • Women riders are a part of the camel contingent of the Border Security Force (BSF)
  • Women officers have been inducted into all branches of the Navy, and they will be eligible for permanent commission in the future.
  • Women officers can command shore-based units and, as they join the service and become eligible for permanent commission, they would be able to command ships and air squadrons.
  • The IAF has opened all branches for women officers, including the fighter stream and the new weapon systems branch.
  • All major countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and Israel, allow women in command positions of their national armed forces.

Way forward

  • Even as India aspires to become a $5-trillion economy, it is evident that it faces many national security inadequacies.
  • The high dependency index on foreign suppliers (traditionally the former USSR now Russia) for major military inventory items is stark.
  • This dependency induces a macro national vulnerability and dilutes India’s quest for meaningful and credible strategic autonomy.
  • meaningful indigenisation and credible “aatmanirbharta” calls for sustained funding support, fortitude and an ecosystem that will nurture this effort

Source: Indian express


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