Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government aims to enhance defence manufacturing in India to make the defence sector self-reliant (Atmanirbhar). He said, “our resolve for ‘Atmanirbharbharat’ is not inward-looking, but for making India capable and boosting global peace and economy”. While addressing an event called Atmanirbhabharat – Defence Industry Outreach Webinar – on 27 August, PM Modi added, it would boost the country’s ability of being a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region.
Wooing private players, he emphasised that the import embargo on a number of defence equipment is not only aimed at curbing imports but also giving a boost to the domestic industry. He said more items will be added to this import embargo list later.
He observed that India has long been one of the biggest defence importers in the world and rued that enough attention was not paid to augmenting domestic production in the past despite the country having inherited a capable ecosystem at the time of Independence. He said, India always had the potential to be self-reliant but unfortunately, for decades, it was ignored. “Many other countries moved ahead of us in the last 50 years but the situation is changing now,” he said.
Asserting that a new mindset has emerged under the present government’s watch, he said it is working to boost domestic manufacturing and developing new technologies with a maximised role for the private sector. His government has opened the way for 74 per cent FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in defence production through automatic route, he pointed out that, “Efforts are being made to boost defence production, develop new technologies and give a bigger role to private players in the defence sector”.
Referring to recent labour reforms in a number of states, PM Modi said the reform exercise is not going to stop. He said his government has always worked to remove red-tape and roll out the red carpet for the private sector, while asserting that it is a win-win situation for everyone. He reiterated that India’s commitment for domestic defence production is not restricted to just plans on paper. “The procurement process will speed up and the qualitative requirements will be rationalised,” he said, adding that coordination between the three forces has increased since the creation of the post of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Prime Minister said DRDO and the private sector are working in the field of technology upgradation related to the defence sector. Working towards the goal of ‘Atmanirbharbharat’, the DRDO has announced that 108 systems and subsystems would be developed in India to strengthen the indigenous defence ecosystem. He also said that self-reliance will bolster India’s strategic partnership model and pave the way for joint ventures with foreign manufacturers and domestic manufacturing of defence equipment.
Speaking at the event Defence Minister Rajnath Singh pointed to the policy changes brought about by the government aimed at boosting the domestic defence industry and also looking at enhancing exports. The government is targeting a turnover of Rs 1.75 lakh crore ($25 billion) in defence manufacturing by 2025 as it has identified the sector as a potential driver to boost the overall economy.
“In the present day, technology will drive capability and countries with cutting edge technologies will lead the world. It is vital that India’s military power is based on indigenous technology which will enable us to exercise Strategic Autonomy,” the Defence Minister said.
“We are extremely confident that the Indian Industry has the wherewithal and manufacturing capability. It has also invested in Research & Development of defence products and is capable of producing world class weapons and equipment” Rajnath Singh said. He further added, “We remain committed to hand holding the industry in all possible manner. We have opened our firing ranges and trial facilities to the Private Sector for conduct of the tests. Our draft DPEPP 2020 has numerous incentives and opportunities for the Indian Industry”.
The policy also looks at doubling domestic procurement from the Indian industry.
In the webinar, Indian defence industry was represented by Baba Kalyani, CMD Bharat Forge, and he pitched for ‘Defence a Sunrise Sector and the sector being a key ingredient in evolution of a self-reliant India’. “Self-reliance in critical industries has been a priority for this government and the bold, structural and strategic measures being announced under the atmanirbhar abhiyan are set to provide a big boost to the manufacturing demand in the country,” said Kalyani. He further added that “as Indian industry, when we look at these announcements in the backdrop of two very important policy frameworks- Draft Acquisition Policy 2020 and Draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy- it gives a good sense of relief that the MoD is making all efforts to synergise procurement, research and development and production of military systems to create a sustainable and capable defence industry base”.
Chief of Defence staff, General Bipin Rawat also spoke on ‘Atmanirbhar defence- a Pragmatic Roadmap’.