The interview of Lt Gen Subrata Saha, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (DCOAS) (P&S) starts with his response that confirms the commitment of the Indian Army to indigenisation of the equipment inventory of the Indian Army. The DCOAS elucidates the various categories of purchase and how modernisation and indigenisation can be harmonised. He also responds to specialised requirements in counter insurgency operations and in extreme high altitude areas of Siachin and a possible role in it for the domestic Indian Defence Industry.
INTERVIEW: LT GEN SUBRATA SAHA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF (P&S)
Nitin Gokhale (NG): What is the Army’s conceptual approach to indigenisation of defence acquisition?
Lt Gen Subrata Saha (DCOAS): Our objective is to promote understanding of the modernisation requirements of the Indian Army, while at the same time discover capabilities available in the Indian industry. This is in keeping with the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and the larger vision of `Modernization of the Army through Indigenisation’.
Indian Army is convinced that enormous talent exists in islands of excellence within the country. We have to harness this capability and establish a vibrant user producer interface.
NG: How does that philosophy translate when applied in the context of Make in India?
DCOAS: Indian Army’s requirements are most suited for ‘Make in India’ for three reasons:
- First, the range of requirements is very wide e.g., currently there are approximately 150 schemes (procurements) in progress.
- Secondly, about 40 percent of the schemes are priced below Rs 150 crores, thus making it suitable for wider participation, particularly by the MSMEs.
- Third the technological requirements in most cases are relatively easier to achieve.
Our requirements can also be broadly categorised into three:
- First the next generation of ‘big ticket’ systems like combat vehicles, artillery guns, air defense, helicopters and so on. These are the classical conventional warfare capability development and modernisation schemes.
- Second category are smaller systems essentially those that support the first category.
- The third category would include requirements for the current and ongoing operations.
Brig SK Chatterji (SKC): Can you dwell a bit more in detail on, let’s take the first Category – big ticket systems?
DCOAS: For the first category, currently our reliance on import is high as either the equipment is imported or the technology is imported. In many cases ideas are imported and adapted to suit the terrain, weather and war fighting conditions of India.
Gestation period for development of such systems is long, but the flip side is they remain in service also for long. Even though the requirements in the first category are relatively high cost and technology intensive, most of these are an aggregate of many sub systems.
Given the fact that over the years a large number of our smaller industries have also developed capability to manufacture precision and high technology components and sub systems, they should be in a position to participate and of course progressively achieve much higher indigenous content.
SKC: Beyond the big ticket buys, if you can elucidate about the other requirements that the Army has?
DCOAS: While we intensify impetus for indigenisation in the first and second category, we also focus on the third category i.e. the requirements for ongoing operations. In the current and ongoing operations, if we take the example of the ‘Line of Control’ in J&K, we are constantly in a state of `No War No Peace’. Troops are deployed 24x7x365 in an eyeball to eyeball contact configuration. Multiplying the challenge manifold for us is the constant and desperate attempts to infiltrate terrorists from launch pads in ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’. We need technology and equipment for our soldiers to stop infiltration, monitor their communications, a qualitatatively superior fence than the one we have, ability to locate and follow their movements.
SKC: What about operations in the hinterland? What are the requirements once the terrorists are able to infiltrate to the hinterland?
DCOAS: In the hinterland our endeavour is to be precise in locating, localising and eliminating the terrorist, without causing any collateral damage or harm to civilians.
NG: Do these requirements change when we look beyond the valley, let’s say Siachin or Indo-Tibet borders?
DCOAS: There are unique requirements in the Siachen Glacier as indeed along the Line of Actual Control with China. These are typically Indian battlefield requirements, which require Indian solutions. These requirements are more immediate, the gestation period for development is short and they also tend to enter the constant ‘tug of war of technology and innovation’, between us and the adversary. Given the high levels of ingenuity of our people and the industry, we firmly believe we can harness Indian ideas and technology to find winning Indian solutions.
NG: You are apparently redefining the military – industry relationship. Your comments?
DCOAS: I would like to emphasise the need to grow beyond the relationship of a buyer-seller to a relationship that is driven by mutual understanding of requirements, exchange of ideas and total synergy towards determining game changing solutions.
Warfare requires teamwork of the ‘Soldier’ and the ‘Industry’.
Together we will ‘Win Indian Wars with Indian Solutions’.