It is of paramount importance that from Day One the Indian defence manufacturing sector must provide world-class products and services
For far too long, we Indians had felt that, just like for petroleum, we, as a country, would also remain an importer of defence equipment. It was really an audacious vision to believe that defence procurement could be linked to the political philosophy of the government, best expressed through “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” and Make in India, reduce our dollar outflow on defence purchases, make our forces self-reliant and create a vibrant domestic defence manufacturing sector that would someday even start exporting.
But the audacious dream has started getting stronger under the Narendra Modi government which, besides embodying good defence and financial strategy, is also a step up insomuch as it announces India as a growing power and force in the world.
The recent announcement of defence minister Rajnath Singh at the 14th Aero India show to reserve a record 75 per cent of the total defence capital procurement budget for the next financial year for the domestic defence manufacturing industry is a very bold step, which will give a huge fillip to both the volume of defence manufacturing and also lead to private investments, innovation and enhancement of quality in the domestic defence sector.
It is very crucial to stress here that, while any move by the government to protect and nurture the domestic industry in any sector is welcome, this is only if it does not become unhealthily protectionist and provides for competition. It also signals to domestic industry that the protection will be short-lived and only to help them quickly ramp up to achieve world-class standards. It is of paramount importance that from Day One the Indian defence manufacturing sector must provide world-class products and services to our bravehearts.
There is a definite national consensus that our defence forces, amongst the best in the world, deserve the very best in every respect, both in terms of arms, weapon systems and technology, but also in every single product they use, however small or miscellaneous. Even products like the socks they wear while protecting the nation’s borders must be the best in the world.
Thankfully, the defence minister has underscored upon it beyond any doubt. While augmenting the budgetary quota for the domestic defence industry from 68 per cent to 75 per cent, industry must look up to the assured spending of around Rs 1.63 lakh crores as a challenge to provide cutting-edge tech for our forces.
At the “bandhan” ceremony at the Aero India show, Mr Rajnath Singh, rightfully describing the decision as an “unprecedented step”, called upon industry to come forward to make extraordinary capital of the decision. Mr Singh extolled the virtues of seeing the move as a combination idea, one which strengthens the forces and the economy of the country simultaneously.
Significantly, he also emphasised upon Mr Modi’s vision of “Make in India, Make for the World”. Uncompromised quality and cutting-edge innovation are no doubt viable in the global markets. For too long, we have been an importer of products for our forces. Arming our own forces and the world is the true mark of a developed nation.
India deserves to do it and Mr Modi has set us on this path. It is time our industry stood up to the challenge.