No country has become powerful by being dependent on foreign defence supplies. It is now increasingly imperative for India to indigenise production through private sector involvement with the aim of eventually developing the ecosystem of a defence industry.
By Aakash Brahmachari
Feb. 18 – The unfolding scandal in the Indian Air Force’s acquisition of 12 helicopters from AgustaWestland has exposed yet again, the need for India to reduce the import quotient of its defence equipment purchases. It’s time to accelerate indigenisation through the participation of India’s private sector, simplify rules and specifications, and streamline the acquisition process.
As India seeks to replace its aging defence system, it has become the world’s largest armaments customer – and is expected to spend more than $80 billion between 2011 and 2015. India’s own public sector, which has so far been entrusted with localizing development, is notorious for cost overruns and long delays. For instance, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), India’s indigenous attempt to replace its dated MiG-21 fighters, was an early ambitious attempt. However, it first flew in 2001 and was scheduled to be inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2012 – four decades after the program was started. The ‘Arjun,’ India’s Main Battle Tank, was judged to be too expensive and inadequate for the Army’s requirements – hundreds of T-90S tanks were purchased from Russia instead. Now we are dependent on the French for fighters and missiles; the Russians for naval ships and aircraft; the Italians for helicopters; the Israelis for drones and missiles; the Americans for transport aircraft.
No country has become powerful by being dependent on foreign defence supplies. India must start to indigenise production with the aim of eventually developing the ecosystem of a defence industry. So far, some equipment production – like the BrahMos missile – is being done by the private sector but it is still small. India’s armed forces are looking for more. Rear Admiral Brajesh Jhang, India’s Director General of Naval Armaments and Industry, says increased indigenous contribution from the Indian private sector will be the navy’s “pillar of strength.” However, this pillar is cracked in three places.