Homeland Security

The words of the Defence Minister do not ring hollow
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 13 May , 2024

Pic Source: https://www.idsa.in

For a country that tops the list of arms importing nations of the world to have also joined the list of world’s top 25 ‘arms exporters’ is a story of a steady rise of India and its determined march on the road to achieve self-reliance in domestic manufacturing of defence equipment.

 It was on 03 Aug 2020, when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) releasedthe draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy(DPEPP). This policy set a bold goal of achieving a turnover of INR 175000 Cr in Defence goods and services including INR 35000 Cr in Defence exports by 2025[1].

Four years down the line, in Feb 2024, the Defence Minister, speaking in a media Seminar on Defence Production, laid down an annual target of INR 300,000 Cr by 2028-29; a leap far ahead of what DPEPP set for 2025[2].

The words of the Defence Minister are not hollow, these are backed by many supportive and Industry-friendly policies of the Government. Starting with the Rule Book itself, the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. The DAP has classified the “Buy Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM)” as the most preferred option for capital acquisition.[3]

Initiatives like the issuance of Positive Indigenisation Lists (5thlist issued on 04 Oct 2023) calling for in import ban of some 98 items (now total 411 items and 4666, including line replacement units, subsystems and spares)[4] are fuelling the Govt’s vision of achieving 70 percentage indigenisation by 2027.[5]

Many other industry-friendly policies are driving the journey towards self- reliance of domestic production of military equipment. Some of these include earmarking 75 percent of all capital acquisition from domestic industry; the simplification of Industrial licencing procedures; liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment limit; simplification of make procedures with funding support for Make 1; launch of Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) involving start-ups and MSMEs; launch of the portal SRIJAN to facilitate indigenisation by Indian Industry including MSMEs; and reforms in Offset Policy el at.[6]

The policies have borne fruit. The private industry led by big players like L&T, Tata, Mahindra, Adani, etc. have taken big strides only to be followed in letter and spirit by the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) which have also galvanised themselves over time (though  they still have a long way ahead). The percentage share in the growth story has been 60 percent for the private industry and 40 percent for DPSUs.[7]

The biggest growth story has been in the defence export sector which touched a whopping INR 21,083 Cr in the FY 2023-24 registering a jump of 32.5 percent from the previous fiscal. Compare it with Defence exports in 2014-15 of INR 1940.64 Cr[8] and the make-in-India story becomes clear.

Apart from the mainframe defence equipment, significant growth has also been registered by the defence companies in the field of simulators and counter-drone systems.

This has been fuelled by an increasing awareness in the need for embracing simulation-based training in all military domains. The MoD itself has come out with a Framework Policy on Simulator in Armed Forces[9] aimed at promoting the synergised and enhanced exploitation of simulators by the three services and the Coast guard. This,coupled with the growing severity in the drone-based threats and the need to counter them has given a sharp boost to the companies manufacturing simulators and counter-drone systems.

Over a period of time the domestic simulator industry have grown from strength to strength. One company in the forefront of leading this growth is the Hyderabad-based Zen Technologies Limited. With 30+ years of industrial experience, Zen is a market leader in the twin verticals of simulators and counter-drone system with over 1000 systems deployed globally. The company has seen a robust YoY growth over the past few years[10].

What does the future hold? As we advance into the future, both the combat and combat training solutions will see a huge influx of cutting edge technologies – virtual and augmented reality coupled with next generation data transfer solutions, real time computing, robust and jam-proof communications and state-of-the-art 3D displays will provide a totally immersive feel in unit and formation level training. Artificial Intelligence will enhance combat potential of war-fighters in multiple domains. It will make them touch new boundaries in target recognition and identification, and destruction. It will bring in new predictive analysis capability in wargaming solutions. Training sessions will become more and more automated, more and more two-sided rather than one-sided. More importantly, the assessment of training will achieve a digital measure instead of the traditional ‘satisfactory’, ‘good’ and ‘excellent’. The good news is that most of the above dreams are becoming a reality sooner than later and that too – all in the domestic domain. 

India moves on, its growth story moves on headed on the correct course.

Talking of Atmanirbhar Bharat does not sound hollow any longer. The words of the honourable Defence Minister are stating, in no uncertain terms, the actual ground reality.

Good luck India.

Endnotes

[1] “MoD releases draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020.” At www.pib.gov.in. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[2]“Defence production to touch Rs 3 Lakh Cr by 2028-29,” at www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[3]“Self reliance in defence sector,” at www.pib.gov.in. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[4]“India announces fresh positive indigenisation list.” At www.m.economictimes.comAccessed on 20 Apr 2024

[5]MoD targets 70% indigenisation by 2027,” at www.bussiness-standard.com .Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[6]“Self reliance in defence manufacturing,” at www.pib.gov.in. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[7]“Guns-N-Growth: inside defence sector’s explosive make-in-India story,” at www.m.economictimes.com.Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[8] India’s defence exports since 2014-15..” at www.livemint.com Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[9]“Framework for simulators in armed forces..” at www.mod.gov.in. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

[10]“The story of the rise of Zen technologies” at www.smallcase.com. Accessed on 20 Apr 2024.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen (Dr) VK Saxena (Retd.)

former Director General Army Air Defence. Currently Distinguished Fellow VIF and Visiting Fellow CLAWS.

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