New Delhi: The General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) will need to be made flexible to boost domestic defence manufacturing, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat said Thursday, ahead of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement of a slew of “structural reforms” in the sector.
An initial step for capital procurement, the GSQRs broadly detail the reasons behind the need of an equipment, and its physical, qualitative specifications and maintenance requirements.
In an interaction with a limited group of journalists, the CDS said the military usually scouted for weapons and equipment in countries like the US and Russia as India doesn’t have an indigenous industry in defence manufacturing and often framed their requirements based on the quality of their equipment and weapons.
“You have to see what is your threat and what kind of a weapon you should need… The US has advanced technologies. They have been working on development of weapons from World War II. That’s when the US defence industry took off,” he said.
“So, when you came out with the GSQRs for your weapon systems, you started formulating them based on those (the US) systems,” he said.
When the Indian domestic industry was asked to develop the system based on those equipment, they ran into trouble, he said. “DRDO, Ordnance factories, did not have that kind of technology to start manufacturing that quality of weapons or ammunition. So what we are suggesting is, please look at what your industry can deliver… Your industry can deliver that, but it may take some time.”
His comments came two days ahead of Saturday’s announcement by FM Sitharaman. Among other measures to boost the ‘Make in India’ programme, the FM raised the foreign direct investment limit in defence manufacturing to 74 per cent from the current 49 per cent.
On rules for procurement
Speaking about GSQRs, General Bipin Rawat said the question is if they can be lowered in terms of performance, but not quality.
“For example, if there is a missile available with the Americans which can fire from an aircraft at a range of 7 km, can you accept a missile that fires from a range of 5 km?” he said.
Rawat said this is particularly important because if domestic manufacturers are not able to meet the given high GSQRs, then the specifications can’t be changed later according to current rules.
This leaves the forces with limited choices to procure their equipment, and also delays the procurement process. So the acceptable and desirable ranges should be listed in the GSQRs when they are framed, said the CDS.
Rawat added that manufacturers should also be given a “plus-minus-leeway” on their products. Otherwise, a good product can be lost if there is too much rigidity in the requirements.
“If you want your industry to flourish you cannot expect them to make what Western nations and Russia are producing, who have developed technology for over a period of time by developing the defence industry. You did not develop the defence industry,” he said.
On the accountability of defence public sector undertakings and Ordnance Factory Boards (OFBs), Rawat said that while they need to be made accountable, the forces should also handhold them.
There should be some military induction into OFBs and they should be handheld and told where the issues are, said the CDS.
On Saturday, FM Nirmala Sitharaman also announced the government move to corporatise the OFBs.
On priorities during Covid-19
In the wake of budget capping due to the economic impact of Covid-19, General Bipin Rawat said a priority list is being worked out in consultation with the Service chiefs.
“Every arm and Service is being looked at differently. For the IAF, the aircraft, radars and missile systems are the priority. For the Navy, there are some ships under construction which are on priority. The Indian Aircraft Carrier 2, supposed to roll out by the end of this year, is also a priority,” he said. “But the higher priority is the ammunition.”
The CDS said all deals which have been signed are going through as scheduled.
“Only the cost negotiation committees have been delayed,” he said, adding that the supply orders too are delayed on account of that. “However, 2-3 months is a very short time in a procurement process. If Covid-19 carries on till throughout the year, then the effect can be assessed,” he said.