Defence Industry

India’s Defence Modernisation: Challenges and Prospects
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 07 Jul , 2016

Acquisition and Offset Strategy

To expand India’s defence industrial base, India has long relied on its offset policy to engage in transactions with foreign suppliers and promote transfer of technology thereby leading to indigenous defence production. First introduced in 2005, the offset policy has gone through several revisions in the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) that have been released over the years (the latest one came out in March 2016). The transactions with foreign suppliers are aimed at enhancing the economic, technological, and the industrial capabilities of the India. India, as it is well known, has long relied on licensed production with overseas defence contractors. And as now offset is mandatory, India is likely to benefit from transfer of technology with the rise in the number of offset-agreements as a result of India’s increasing defence acquisition budget.[11]

…foreign companies are hesitant to invest in a defence industry without having full stakes in the defence production.

The increase in defence spending has become possible not just because as a result of the tensions in the immediate regional security environment, but also because of its rapid economic growth over the years that has given it a solid economic base. This should play a major role in increasing India’s defence offset appetite, which would give it the necessary financial resources to promote indigenous defence production.

However, India’s defence offset policy suffers from major challenges that require attention. India’s offset policy requires foreign vendors to engage with local defence companies through co-development, co-production, joint ventures, maintenance, and upgrades, but full mergers and acquisitions are not allowed. Therefore, foreign companies are hesitant to invest in a defence industry without having full stakes in the defence production.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector is capped at 49 percent, which again is a sore point for many foreign firms, as they believe that investments involve huge financial risks, and therefore, FDI cap in defence should be raised to 74 percent or even 100 percent.[12]

Secondly, the expectation that a foreign vendor will engage in ‘complete’ transfer of technology to the Indian pattern of the system’s subsystems, modules, assemblies, and specific parts/components is too much to ask, given the commitments the offset policy of India demands.

Thirdly, India’s offset policy is based on an inflexible doctrine of indigenisation and India’s offset policy should be made compatible with the economic dynamism of the global defence industry.

India’s offset policy is based on an inflexible doctrine of indigenisation and India’s offset policy should be made compatible with the economic dynamism of the global defence industry.

And finally, other issues in the offset policy should be addressed such as the policy’s obligatory nature, objectives that need broadening, and most importantly, the inherent complexities, which need reduction.[13]

Under the current offset policy, India under ‘Buy (Global)’ would purchase from foreign/Indian seller, and under ‘Buy and Make with Transfer of Technology’ would acquire defence hardware from foreign sellers which would be followed by co-development and joint-production. The estimated cost of acquisition proposal should be INR 300 crore or more and ‘compensation’ or offset for the cost of acquisition under the ‘Buy (Global)’ category would be 30 percent and for foreign exchange component under ‘Buy and Make with Transfer of Technology’ would be 30 percent.[14]

Foreign firms from major defence hardware exporting countries find such conditions difficult to fulfill as there are literally no incentives, and because of lack of proper monitoring mechanism and issues related to intellectual property rights.[15]

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) released an incomplete version of DPP 2016 on 28 March 2016, which saw the introduction of a new category titled ‘Buy (Indian Designed, Developed, and Manufactured)’ or Buy (IDDM). For the first time its inception in 2002[16], that means the Indian government has recognised the need for encouraging scientific talent in India and has placed importance on “indigenous design”, development, and manufacture.[17] However, critics would argue that it is too early to judge or predict the efficacy of the document as it misses many critical issues and does little to address problems that beset decision-making in the MoD.[18]

India needs to take urgent steps towards extensive naval modernisation so as to secure its security interests in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.

What India Needs?

Each of the services of the Indian armed forces today needs urgent modernisation to face the complex security challenges that emanate in an increasingly unstable neighbourhood and in a complex strategic regional security environment.[19] The Indian Army, which is one of the largest standing forces in the world, possesses weapons and equipment that are bordering on obsolescence and need to be replaced. The next step should be to acquire network-centric capabilities to optimise army’s full potential in defensive and offensive operations.

The critical capabilities that are needed to be enhanced (as Lieutenant General J.P. Singh noted in an interview with Centre for Land and Warfare Studies, New Delhi) are “battlefield transparency, battlefield management systems, night-fighting capability, enhanced firepower, including terminally guided munitions, integrated maneuver capability to include self-propelled artillery, quick reaction surface-to-air missiles, the latest assault engineer equipment, tactical control systems, integral combat aviation support, and network centricity.”[20] Also, urgent steps should be taken to enhance the operational capabilities of army aviation, engineers, signal communications, reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition branches in order to improve the army’s overall combat potential so that it can face aggression ofany magnitude.[21]

India needs to take urgent steps towards extensive naval modernisation so as to secure its security interests in the Indian Ocean Region and beyond. India should look to augment its naval power by acquiring capabilities for maritime domain awareness in the area of responsibility, including space-based surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Indian Navy should be equipped with modern capabilities in fields of tactical aviation, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-air/anti-missile, land-attack, mine counter-measures, and electronic warfare. It is equally important to make sure that Indian Navy is integrated by networking of ships, submarines, and airborne platforms via satellites. In the end, the government should commit to self-reliance and indigenisation, with the objectives of harnessing national strengths in ship-building, engineering, electronics, and information technology (IT).[22] The Indian naval modernisation though much delayed, has begun to pick up steam as seen from the recent developments where deals worth thousands of crores have been made to expand India’s naval fleet and India’s naval dominance capabilities.

…the IAF has only 32 squadrons of fighters, the lowest in a decade, while it needs at least 42 squadrons to protect its western and northern borders from Pakistan and China.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is a full-spectrum force equipped with very capable platforms and trained manpower, but the numbers are inadequate for intense and lengthy operations. India must take urgent steps to maintain an edge over the adversary through technology and force employment.

The IAF is at the forefront of technology, but India should push towards self-reliance, as it has to develop its own technology and defence industrial base. India’s track record in R&D however has been dismal and it is continuing to face a number of challenges in terms of meeting the quantitative requirements to defend the Indian skies. As per one of the recent reports, the IAF has only 32 squadrons of fighters, the lowest in a decade, while it needs at least 42 squadrons to protect its western and northern borders from Pakistan and China.[23] Also, as aircrafts such as MiG-21s and MiG-27s in the IAF are old and aging (which date back to the Soviet era), India is likely to lose another 14 squadrons by 2019-2020.[24]

Commercial negotiations with France on the deal over Rafale fighter jets are far from over and India has yet to start production of its first indigenously built aircraft Tejas (the project is more than 30 years old). India has to urgently focus on air dominance and control of the air by building capacity to indigenously produce future capabilities for design and development of aircrafts, heavy attack helicopters, and other combat and surveillance-related capabilities for further projection of air power.

From India’s point of view, the most crucial component that has to be implemented for better integration of the services of the armed forces is a robust and an efficient Command, Control, Computers, Communication, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) system. An integrated Indian C4ISR system will be central to augmenting India’s overall defence capability.

A strong political will and an enabling framework for the involvement of players from different sectors (such as private sector or academia) for indigenous production of such capabilities would be essential…

With better integration of the services of the armed forces, it is also essential that there is integration between the armed forces, defence and intelligence agencies, and other government and private organisations as well. This would provide a joint force that would protect the country from traditional as well as asymmetric threats while providing flexibility, analysis, interpretation, and efficiency. This would also give advantages such as information assurance, controlling and disruption of information, data processing and management, quicker decision-making, and larger system integration.[25]

A strong political will and an enabling framework for the involvement of players from different sectors (such as private sector or academia) for indigenous production of such capabilities would be essential, which is turning out to be a key national security imperative.

Conclusion

Threats from China and Pakistan leave India with no other option but to augment its defence capabilities to secure its national security interests. India’s pace of defence modernisation, however, has been slow because of a number of inherent holes in the system such as lack of a National Security Strategy doctrine, or a long-term strategic defence plan, which are impediments in terms of evolving a clear-cut strategy to meet the defence requirements of the armed forces by making a thorough analysis of the security challenges in the immediate regional security environment.

Moreover, India’s inability to produce advanced sophisticated weapons system and advanced defence technologies indigenously has severely affected its aspirations of becoming self-reliant in defence production, thereby remaining heavily dependent on foreign sellers for defence purchases, which in a way or other, do expose India’s vulnerabilities. Adversaries may seek advantage in case they happen to know India’s vulnerabilities, which in turn would have severe implications for India’s national security. Therefore, the policy priority for the Indian civil and defence establishment should be to take necessary decisions to ensure that India’s defence requirements are met as soon as possible through indigenous production.

…the urgent focus for the Indian government should be to encourage private individuals and entities in India that could contribute in indigenous defence production.

India’s indigenous defence production capabilities have however not grown because of a number of challenges. There is a lack of the greater political will that has severely affected decision-making in terms of acquiring weapons on time as per the needs of the armed forces. The Indian defence industry suffers because of under-utilisation of human resources that has negatively affected India’s defence R&D base. Because of unfriendly defence industrial procurement system, it has resulted in few co-development and co-production ventures with foreign firms.

The lack of conducive financial framework for the local industry to do business in the defence sector, especially for the private sector, has also negatively impacted private participation in the defence sector. Therefore, the urgent focus for the Indian government should be to encourage private individuals and entities in India that could contribute in indigenous defence production. This would mean that India would achieve its goal of self-reliance only if it allows more private players in India to participate in the defence sector, and the true potential of the Indian minds are utilised.

Also, initiating/implementing further defence reforms such as streamlining procurement and offset policy, and introducing newer positions and staffs for better policy coordination, would be essential if India wants to reduce the qualitative and quantitative gaps between its defence industrial base with that of the other major powers.

Reference:


[1] Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd), “Defence Reforms and National Security: Managing Threats and Challenges to India”, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (New Delhi), n.172, 2011, see http://www.ipcs.org/pdf_file/issue/IB172-Gurmeet-DefenceModernisation.pdf, accessed on 6 April 2016.

[2] The ‘Make in India (MII)’ initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under which 25 sectors including defence manufacturing have been identified to revive India’s industrial growth and to promote the nation as a manufacturing hub of the world. The primary purpose of the initiative as far as defence indigenisation is concerned is to attract/invite foreign firms to establish defence manufacturing bases in India.

[3] RSN Singh, “Defence Preparedness Back on Track”, Indian Defence Review (online), 22 May 2015, see http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/defence-preparedness-back-on-track/, accessed on 6 April 2016.

[4] Richard A. Bitzinger, “The Indian Defence Industry: Struggling With Change”, in Rajesh Basrur, Ajaya Kumar Das, and Manjeet S. Pardesi (eds.),India’s Military Modernization: Challenges and Prospects (Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2014), p. 117; India imports almost 80 percent of its defence hardware requirements from foreign firms in major weapons-exporting countries such as the US, Russia, France, and Israel.

[5] N. Neihsial, “What is Wrong with India’s Defence Industrial Policy?”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses(New Delhi), 22 August 2008, see http://idsa.in/idsastrategiccomments/WhatiswrongwithIndiasDefenceIndustrialPolicy_NNeihsial_220808, accessed on 7 April 2016.

[6] Laxman Kumar Behera, “Indian Defence Industry: Issues of Self-Reliance”,Institute for Defence and Studies Analyses (New Delhi), n.21, 2013, see http://www.idsa.in/system/files/monograph21.pdf, accessed on 7 April 2016.

[7] India is likely to spend INR 250 Billion in the next 7-8 years on India’s defence modernisation. See “Defence Manufacturing”, Make In India (Official Website), see http://www.makeinindia.com/sector/defence-manufacturing, accessed on 7 April 2016.

[8] Gurmeet Kanwal, “Defence Technology Indigenisation: Need to go Beyond Lip Service”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses(New Delhi), 19 September 2013, see http://www.idsa.in/issuebrief/DefenceTechnologyIndigenisation_gkanwal_190913, accessed on 7 April 2016; India usually meets the requirements of the armed forces by making weapons under licenced production in collaboration with other countries or by direct purchase of advanced weapons system from foreign firms or the major weapons-exporting countries.

[9] Defence planning comes under the domain of National Security Council (NSC).

[10] Gurmeet Kanwal, “National Security Decision Making: Overhaul Needed”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses(New Delhi), 26 August 2014, see http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/NationalSecurityDecisionMaking_gkanwal_260814, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[11] The budget of Ministry of Defence (MoD) under a restructured format for the fiscal year 2016-2017 is approximately INR 3,40,000 crore (USD 52.2 Billion). See Laxman K. Behera, “All about Pay and Perks: India’s defence budget 2016-17”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses(New Delhi), 3 March 2016, see http://www.idsa.in/issuebrief/pay-and-perks-india-defence-budget-2016-17_lkbehera_030315, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[12] Ron Matthews and Alma Lozano, “India’s Defence Acquistion and Offset Strategy” in Rajesh Basrur, Ajaya Kumar Das, and Manjeet S. Pardesi (eds.),India’s Military Modernization: Challenges and Prospects (Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 2014), p. 158.

[13] Ibid, p. 164; The talks between India and France over 126 Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighter jets have seen little progress because of differences on transfer of technology under India’s offset policy. India had to purchase 36 Rafale jets on a ‘direct purchase’ basis (during Prime Minster Modi’s visit to France in 2015) to meet its immediate requirements of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

[14] Dr. Rajiv Nayan, “India’s Defence Offset Policy”, Defence and Security Alert(New Delhi), see http://www.dsalert.org/indias-defence-industry-challenges/779-india-defence-offset-policy, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[15] Ashok Atluri, “India’s New Defence Procurement Procedure: Why it is Revolutionary”, The Indian Express (Mumbai), 9 February 2016, see http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/indias-new-defence-procurement-procedure-why-it-is-revolutionary/, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[16] The DPP has been revised several times i.e. in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2013, and the latest one was released in March 2016.

[17] Colonel KV Kuber (retd), “DPP 2016: ‘Make in India’ Paradigm, a New Era Dawns”, The Economic Times (Mumbai), 30 March 2016, see http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/et-commentary/dpp-2016-make-in-india-paradigm-a-new-era-dawns/, accessed on 8 April 2016;The category IDDM refers that Indian vendors and their products should have 40 percent indigenous content. If the product is not designed and developed indigenously, it has to have 60 percent indigenous content.

[18] Amit Cowshish, “Defence Procurement Procedure 2016: Rebooting Defence Prodcution and Procurement”, Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses(New Delhi), 30 March 2016, see http://www.idsa.in/idsacomments/defence-procurement-procedure-2016_acowshish_300316, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[19] The Defence Acquisition Council approved the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for 2012-2027 in 2012.  The LTIPP consists of several plans and recommendations that set out a comprehensive task for the modernisation of the armed forces. Though it was considered a positive step towards modernisation of armed forces, interestingly, several crucial projects have got delayed.

[20] Interview with Lt. Gen. J.P. Singh with Centre for Land and Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi, in 2010, see http://www.claws.in/images/journals_doc/826070326_JPSinghCJWinter2010.pdf, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[21] Gurmeet Kanwal, “India’s Military Modernization: Plans and Strategic Underpinnings”, The National Bureau of Asian Research(Washington D.C.), 24 September 2012, see http://www.nbr.org/research/activity.aspx?id=275#footnote6, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Sudhi Ranjan Sen, “Indian Air Force has only 32 Squadrons – Lowest in a Decade”, The Indian Express (Mumbai), 26 February 2016, see http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/indian-air-force-has-only-32-squadrons-lowest-in-a-decade-1281558, accessed on 8 April 2016.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Davinder Kumar, “An Indian C4SIR System By 2020”, Defence and Security of India(New Delhi), 2 February 2014, see http://defencesecurityindia.com/indian-c4isr-system-2020-strategic-imperative/, accessed on 8 April 2016.

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About the Author

Abhinav Dutta

Post Graduate Research Scholar, MA Geopolitics and IR, Manipal University.

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6 thoughts on “India’s Defence Modernisation: Challenges and Prospects

  1. hello sir i am sudhanshu sharma of class 12th and i am working on my researches since from last 6 years and got success and also appriciated by many indian institutes and also working under ymrd as a young scientist of india. sir i have an idea to make a device which can diffuse atomic messile while sitting in ur home, but some of the information are not given on social sites which is needed by me to complete this problem it is almost done but i just need help from the drdo to answer some of my questions which can help me a lot. and help me to make it done.

  2. Defence Modernization: Forces demand for Rs. 27,00,000 crore from Government of India( GoI):

    Courtesy by: News Bytes: 16 Jul 2017 | By Anupama Vijayakumar

    1. Evolving crises at the eastern and western fronts including constant cross-firing across the LoC and the Sikkim stand-off make the 13th plan crucial to plug operational gaps as the past three plans failed to get approval.

    2. In a bid to carry India’s geo-strategic interests forward and handle threats from Pakistan and China, the Indian Armed Forces have asked for an allocation worth Rs 26.84 lakh crore over the next five years (2017-2022).

    3. The budget plan for the same was presented at the Unified Commander’s Conference held on July 10-11, after extensive consultations with stakeholders including the DRDO.

    Why is this important?

    4. Defence five-year plans are pivotal to ensuring a country’s defence preparedness and are created in accordance with the “Raksha Mantri’s operational directives” and the Long-term Integrated Perspective Plan.

    5. While the past three plans failed to get approval, evolving crises at the eastern and western fronts including constant cross-firing across the LoC and the Sikkim stand-off, make the 13th plan crucial to plug operational gaps.

    Analysis: Is this enough for defending India?

    6. While India is the fifth largest military spender, India’s defence modernization budget has reportedly been on the decline.

    7. For instance, under the 2017-18 defence budget, a revenue outlay worth-Rs. Rs 1,72,774 crore overtook capital outlay for modernization at Rs. 86,488 crore.

    8. While the 13th Plan figure amounts to 1.56% of GDP, it reportedly has to touch 2% of GDP to plug all operational holes.

    Forwarded by:

    Balbir Singh Sooch-Sikh Vichar Manch

  3. Ge sir. Your article is very informative. Besides policy issues, I hope defence industries pose a challenge from lengthy licencing procedures. What is the procedure for licencing what r d short comings? Just interested to know.
    Regards.

  4. This paper is too general, almost bookish.

    You know where defence related hardware and ammunition etc. are made. Come up with a plan to modernize these. Start from HAL, then go OFB, then missile and component manufacturer. Tell us how to rectify the worst labour relation problems which plague these. How to modernize these factories without scaring the labour of their jobs. Etc. Etc.

    • Labour problem is the biggest problem facing in workshops and PSUs. The using Robot will solve quality the problem and increases the productivity. The out – sourcing will be the another way to increase the productivity as reduce cost.

  5. I am not in favour of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). This will create more problem so long the rivalry / superiority complex exist among army officers . CDS must be a person acceptable to Army, IAF, and Navy. In the case of war whether the Army would cross the border or start another front can only be taken by the defense minister or PM. If the defense minister is competent like Parrikar no CDS is required. Defense minister should know the hook and corner of the army position and the border area. Nowadays Defense minister can see the war front on a big screen using GPS. My suggestion is Defense Minister should create three adviser posts and they will directly work under him. They should be technically qualified persons and give them training in the Army , IAF ,and Navy ( one-year training in each department. Total 3 years. These advisers will assist the minister. They will have the inventory of war equipment . For example,how many fighter planes are waiting for repair and the other things.
    The Army officers cannot tackle finance department because the majority of Army officers think they are superiors. So these advisers will discuss with finance dept,and short out the problem. If they failed they will tell the defense minister. It is a herculean task to convince the finance officers in any Govt. department.

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