General Bipin Rawat is clear: If India has to fight a war out of compulsion, India will surely fight and win that war through ‘Made-in-India’ defence warfare systems.

 

NEW DELHI: General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee is clear: If India has to fight a war out of compulsion to defeat the terror-sponsoring countries in India’s neighbourhood to maintain regional peace and to ensure development in South Asia, India will surely fight and win that war through “Made-in-India” defence warfare systems.  This statement made by General Rawat at the second edition of Indian Defence and Aerospace Summit (IDAS) organised by NewsX and The Sunday Guardian in New Delhi on Saturday is more than just a few lines.

The message is loud and clear. It conveys India’s new strategy for the defence sector—rope in the private sector, big established industry players, MSMEs, entrepreneurs and tech innovators to partner with the government to establish India as a major defence manufacturing hub. Not to miss, the role of start-ups is also crucial. This will not only meet the growing demands of the country’s own security and defence warfare needs, but also help establish India as a major defence producing market in the region. Eventually, this will help realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s twin dreams of “Make in India in Defence”—which is a major sector for the country’s economic growth—and make India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. One indigenously produced defence system can bring the cost down by Rs 40-50 lakh, enough to create thousands of jobs.

Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while inaugurating IDAS through live video conferencing, made this message clear while citing the technological gap in India’s defence production. He said that “The technological distance between India’s own light combat aircraft Tejas and the state-of-art technology driven French Rafale jets has to be bridged soon if India wants to be self-reliant and a competitive defence production player in the world… Today we are compelled to buy imported defence equipment in large numbers, but it cannot be on for long as a country like India aspiring to be a top global nation at par with top five global economies cannot depend so heavily on defence imports from foreign players.”

The statements of the Defence Minister and General Rawat are not without visible reasons. India strives to be a $5 trillion economy and to showcase its global clout, it also aims to be among the top five global economies. From being a regional player in South Asia, India’s dream is to capture global attention at a bigger world stage under PM Modi, who has already charted the roadmap of his multi-polar diplomacy to make a case for India as the “player to be in future”. To achieve this aim, India needs to up its defence manufacturing capabilities and augment its own manufacturing resources, research and development techniques to be at par with top global players like the United States, Russia and France in defence production.

As said Singh in his address: “Assured internal security and secured borders are key to the nation’s growth and when India is aspiring to be a $5 trillion economy, the same can be made possible with India’s own defence sector playing a key role in the success story.”

Today, India relies on
imports for 70% of its defence and security needs and is the second largest importer after Saudi Arabia. This defence import arithmetic needs to be reversed and the same 70% production should be indigenously produced as Indian Navy Chief, Admiral Karambir Singh hinted at the IDAS, citing his Navy’s defence production graph and new needs. India’s aerospace needs are growing too and cannot be met with just imports.

With the current security scenario in the region, a modern robust, indigenously produced defence hardware and technology is an urgency for India. At the IDAS, the country’s three defence chiefs and the Ministry of Defence were on the same page—“Make-in-India” should be a productive tool to achieve the objective.

And in that start-ups by tech entrepreneurs and innovators hold the key to make India surge in home-made defence equipment and protective gears. “There is a huge potential to increase these start-up numbers as India has just in hundreds,” said General Rawat, while comparing it with the 15,000 in Israel and nearly 12,000 in the United States.

The urgency to turn India into an indigenous defence producing hub is telling, with the Air Chief, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria and Navy Chief, Admiral Karambir Singh both listing out the immediate needs of the forces to first excel and then ensure safety and security for India in the air and in the seas. While the Air Force needs another 350 aircraft to make Indian skies secure—and it needs these on time—Indian Navy aspires to increase its naval aviation fleet from the current 220 to 440 in the next two decades.

With established defence producing players like Tata, Reliance, Mahindra, Larsen & Toubro and Hinduja already present, the private sector needs to seize the opportunity offered by the Ministry to be the partner in this humungous defence target to achieve. While the government is out to shed bureaucratic hurdles and make indigenous defence production an industry friendly sector, the convergence of government with private Indian companies along with the MSMEs and tech innovators in top academic and research institutions will help realise India’s aim to become a world class domestic defence industry and eventually a market for other neighbouring countries.

Prime Minister Modi’s government is out to promote private sector growth in establishing India as a major defence manufacturing hub and is breaking all barriers to make it investor friendly for indigenous private players.

Time to win this “defence production war” with an Indian tag!

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