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Perspective: Atma Nirbhar in Defence

  • 26 Nov 2021
  • 8 min read

Why in News

To give a thrust to Atma Nirbhar Bharat in the defence sector, the Prime Minister recently handed over indigenously designed and developed equipment to the Armed Forces Service Chiefs.

Key Points

  • Distribution of Defence Equipments: HAL- designed and developed Light Combat Helicopters were handed over to the Chief of the Air Staff.
    • Drones and UAVs designed and developed by Indian startups were given to the Chief of the Army Staff
    • DRDO designed and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) manufactured Advanced Electronic Warfare suite for naval ships were handed over to the Chief of Naval Staff by the Prime Minister.
  • UP DIC’s Jhansi Node:The Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of the Rs 400 crore project at Jhansi node of the UP Defence Industrial Corridor (DIC).
    • In addition to Jhansi, the corridor has nodes at Agra, Aligarh, Chitrakoot, Lucknow and Kanpur.

AtmaNirbhar India in Defence

  • Defence Industrial Corridor:
    • A significant step in the march to indigenization which was announced by the finance minister in 2018 and it decided to set up two defence industrial corridors in Tamil Nadu and in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Aim of the Uttar Pradesh Corridor is to revive the large MSME base of Uttar Pradesh to support defense manufacturing as there are six nodes.
    • The government is giving exemption and concessions in the duty taxes, electricity duty, stamp duty, etc.
    • Both the industrial corridors are one of the major steps the government has taken to push indigenization in defense.
  • Modernization with Indigenization: Defense Manufacturing Ecosystem
    • Recently, Bharat Dynamics Limited(BDL) has started with the foundation laying ceremony in jhansi.
    • Brahmos is a major investment which will come in lucknow with a private sector investment in specialized titanium and alloys,etc.
    • The Indian defense manufacturers have signed MOUs with both the state governments.

Challenges

  • Too Much Delay: In the past five years, the Indian government has approved over 200 defence acquisition proposals with the transfer of technology provision, valued around Rs 4 trillion, but most are still in relatively early stages of processing.
  • Public Sector Driven: India has four companies (Indian ordnance factories, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL)) among the top 100 biggest arms producers of the world.
    • All four of these companies are public sector enterprises and account for the bulk of the domestic armament demand.
    • Governments usually have tended to privilege Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) over the private sector, despite ‘Make in India’.
  • Lack of Critical Technologies: Poor design capability in critical technologies, inadequate investment in R&D and inability to manufacture major subsystems and components hamper the indigenous manufacturing.
    • The relationship between the R&D establishment, production agencies (public or private) and the end-user are extremely weak.
  • Long Gestation Period: The creation of a manufacturing base is capital and technology-intensive and has a long gestation period.
    • For a factory to reach optimum levels of capacity utilisation, it could take anywhere between five to 10 to even 15 years and by the time a unit commences production, any of the following developments can take place.
  • Poor Manufacturing Environment: Stringent labour laws, compliance burden and lack of skills, affects the development of indigenous manufacturing in defence.
  • Lack of Coordination: Overlapping jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Industrial Promotion impair India's capability of defence manufacturing.

Initiatives Taken

  • Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP 2020):
    • The DPEPP 2020 is envisaged as an overarching guiding document to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities of the country for self-reliance and exports.
  • Multi-Pronged Steps Towards Self Reliant Defense Sector:
    • Make in India: 2014
      • There have been progressive changes with one focus to empower the private industry.
      • The DPP 2016 came out with a new category called Indian IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured) .
      • If any Indian company opted for Indian IDDM, it was given preference over all other categories.
  • Strategic Partnership:
    • A strategic partnership model allows indian companies to collaborate with foreign OEMs and get transfer of technology, get the capability to build, manufacture india and sustain those projects in india.
    • The first of the RFP for the conventional submarines in functioning.
  • Positive Indigenization: 2020
    • For the first time the government is putting a ban on itself to import any item,the Government wants to empower the indigenous industry.
    • There are two positive indigenization lists of 101 items and 108 items that range from platforms to weapon systems to sensors to the entire plethora of items.

Way forward

  • The Ministry of Defence, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Service Headquarters shall take all necessary steps, including hand holding of the industry, to ensure that the timelines mentioned in the list are met.
    • It will thereby facilitate an environment for Indian defence manufacturers to create world class infrastructure, assist in the government’s ‘Make in India’ vision to make India self-reliant in defence and develop the capabilities for defence export in the near future.
  • The Ministry of Defence is also expected to put out the final version of the ‘Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) 2020’.
    • It is envisaged as an overarching guiding document to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities of the country for self-reliance and exports.
  • India is today the second largest hub of startups which means innovation i.e. new ideas is the one which will expedite the processes and will bring down the cost and make it competitive in the entire world.
  • The naval indigenization innovation organization in the last one year has filed 30 patents for the defense production.
  • This will transform the industry to take initiative to develop and be competitive in the world and meet global requirements.
  • The aim is to make India a defense production hub and if India is to become the net security provider in the Indian security region these are aspects that it must take into account.
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