Indigenisation thy name is self-reliance
The recent sanction to the Rs-48,000 crore Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)-developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas purchase, and thereafter, the successful testing of HAL-developed anti-airfield weapons off the coast of Odisha added a new chapter in the history of indigenous weapon manufacturing in the country. Furthermore, the Ministry of Defence took exemplary steps to support the Narendra Modi government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. The manufacture of indigenous armaments and defence products will prevent imports from abroad, which will not only give a boost to the economy, but India will also emerge as a major force in the world in the field of defence production. These initiatives are significant in the sense that India is among the largest arms buying countries in the world. On the other hand, security challenges have steadily increased along the borders of Pakistan and China. At the same time, disputes that arose over the role of middlemen in every major defence deal in the past will also be done away with. Also, while the defence industry will grow in India, there will be an increase in employment opportunities in the country. Hence, India’s money will remain in India. Against this backdrop, it is apt to mention that today many government and public sector companies of our country are making world-class weapons and India is exporting defence products to 42 countries of the world. Moving from Make in India to achieving the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat, the Union Government has set a target of 35,000 crore rupees of defence exports annually by 2024. Apart from government figures, if we talk about the ground reality, India’s defence exports in 2016-17 was Rs 1521 crore, which has reached Rs10,745 crore in the year 2018-19. That means an increase of about 700 per cent.
In India, since Independence, the major requirements of the defence products have been provided by foreign companies, owing to the dual policies of the government, lack of modernisation, selfishness of the leaders and lack of private sector participation. Hence, what must smite the conscience of all Indians is the fact that we, a regional power and a major global player, are the second-largest importer of arms. It not only engenders massive out-flow of precious foreign reserves but more precariously leaves the country vulnerable to manipulation by arms manufacturers, which are confined to five or six countries, an occurrence we witnessed during the Kargil war. During the Cold War, the problem was less accentuated because India had the facility to source arms from the Soviet Union by making payments in the Indian currency. However, the post-Cold War, this facility died, thus increasing our strategic vulnerability due to lack of strategic manoeuvre space. Hence, it cannot be gainsaid that the indigenised defence production is a major factor that provides strategic autonomy to a nation, thereby adding exponentially to national security through 24×7 defence preparedness. Military supplies are of high-value the world over, considering the specialised and highly controlled nature of the defence industry. Indigenisation provides security flexibility to a nation, by reducing reliance on external sources and frees a nation from peripheral pulls and pressures, be they political or otherwise. But the great irony and compulsion of India has been that it has been counted in those countries, which have been importing all its defence materials. But with the push to Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives, thanks to the Modi government, India will be powerful and self-reliant in terms of defence production. To emerge as a major power of the world, India has to ensure that it will be able to meet its defence needs on its own and will not allow any political insistence-prejudice and corruption to become its hindrance. The message of boost to indigenously-developed defence products is evident that a lot can be done in “one night” in governance. Otherwise, the mentality and weak policy of the former leaders of “let it go”, increased the dependence of the defence sector on other countries and kept us under control. Therefore, it is thanks to the present government that it is envisioning the country’s requirements in the defence sector and treading the path to fulfil them.
By Deepak Kumar Rath