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HomeDefenceIndian Army ex-chief wasn’t surprised when Dassault junked HAL as Rafale partner

Indian Army ex-chief wasn’t surprised when Dassault junked HAL as Rafale partner

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At Military Literature Festival, former Indian Army chief General Ved Prakash Malik (Retd) discussed factors he thought were holding Make in India back. 

Chandigarh: Former Indian Army chief General Ved Prakash Malik (Retd) said Saturday he wasn’t surprised by reports that French aerospace manufacturer Dassault had rejected Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as a partner over quality concerns.

General Malik, who headed the Indian Army during the Kargil war, was speaking in a panel discussion on ‘Military Industrial Base and Make in India’ on the second day of the Punjab government’s Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh.

The rejection of HAL as a partner in the deal India has signed with France for the purchase of Dassault’s Rafale fighter jets has become a hot potato in Indian politics. The opposition has alleged foul play, questioning Dassault’s selection of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the partner over a state-owned manufacturer.

Also read: Dassault paid kickbacks to Anil Ambani, its CEO lying: Rahul Gandhi  

A former HAL chief, too, had lashed out at allegations of the agency’s incompetence to be a partner in the Rafale deal.

“I’m not surprised that Rafale [sic] recently refused to accept quality assurance from HAL,” General Malik said, citing other instances he believed the Make in India programme had made little progress so far, especially in the defence sector.

‘Hardly any money’

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in the programme, aside from defence procurement procedures, he said, was that manufacturers were not getting any indication that the government was interested in developing and buying equipment for its own armed forces.

Recalling a conversation with a manufacturer after the last Budget, he added, “There was hardly any money left for capital purchases.”

The “upset manufacturer”, Malik said, feared that meagre budget set aside for defence meant he won’t get any orders, despite having invested a lot of money in the sector.

The absence of political will was another reason why defence manufacturing had never picked up in India, he added.

Also read: There’s a humongous scam in the Rafale deal. It is called stupidity

Malik said he had once suggested to former President Pranab Mukherjee, who has earlier served as defence minister, that disinvestment of some ordnance factories may yield money to upgrade the rest.

Mukherjee, he added, refused the suggestion, stating that the political leadership could not alienate the workers of ordnance factories.

“I feel there is a very strong nexus between the ministry of defence, between the defence PSUs, including the ordnance factories, the Defence Research & Development Organisation, and others, and that nexus is not giving a level-playing field to private manufacturers,” Malik said.

Drawing from his experience in the battleground, General Malik said he had suffered during the Kargil war when India was running out of ammunition.

‘A reminder’

He said such crises were a reminder to build adequate manufacturing capacity, for which, he added, the government has to spend money and also give a level playing field to private manufacturers.

Another panelist, Brigadier K.A. Hai (Retd), said India had misused its defence offsets policy, which was introduced to encourage domestic manufacturing.

“We have not been able to get major technologies in our country through offsets,” Brigadier Hai added.

“What we succeeded in doing was to get some questionable manufacturing that can be done in small-scale or medium-scale industries,” he added.

“We have got to see how we can make a win-win situation to ensure that we get first-class technologies through offsets,” Hai said.

Journalist and former Army man Col Ajai Shukla, also a panelist, said the Indian government needed to understand that it had to guide and support the domestic defence industry with policies, orders and the requisite regulatory framework.

“The defence ministry clearly has a problem switching over from public sector defence industry to private [players], which is clearly the way forward,” he added.

Also read: Picking Reliance as partner was our choice, Dassault says again after new Rafale row

There are gaps the government needed to bridge to have a robust defence industry, he said, including providing the private sector with infrastructure and the right ecosystem to prosper.

This report has been corrected to reflect that HAL was supposed to be Dassault’s partner to make Rafales in India and not an offsets partner. The error is regretted.

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  1. Brig Hai’s comments are out of ignorance, I think speakers at such forums must make comments based on knowledge, should they not have adequate knowledge on an particular subject, they must refrain from comments. Just because one has become Brig, does not mean that it is a Know all situation, he may know many things, but his comments on Offsets are most unwarranted, uncalled for and against national interest. the GoI is doing a great job in building capability through the medium of offsets and miracles cannot happen in a day(read decade). It takes time. The Brig has served in Mahindra group, scouting for offsets from various OEMs, where did his conscience go at that time? Well… lst us be moderate in our thinking and comments and not bash the government for everything including some good work they do.

  2. Had an opportunity to hear Mr. Shekhar Gupta’s highly disappointing speech which claimed to clear the ‘CLUTTER’ regarding the Rafale Deal but only succeeded in complicating the clutter even more. Repeating the oft repeated arguments of last three decades is not what we expect of Mr. Shekhar Gupta, also playing with words such as ‘PERCEPTION’ and ‘FACTS’ to criticise the Defence Minister was a cheap trick. Come out straight and state the facts please. What is really wrong with Rafale Deal? Tell us that. Fix responsibilities with your investigative journalism. That is what we expect of you Mr. Gupta. Talking of multi-brand aircraft collected by the IAF over the years is stale news. What could they or the Government have done? We did continue with the MIGs for a long time though it was not the best aircraft to possess. (We had little choice.) Perhaps Mr. Gupta wanted the Indian Air Force to have continued with the ‘Hawker Siddeley’ company right through after the Hunters.
    He found an opportunity to praise Mrs. Indira Gandhi to have purchased the MIRAGE aircraft from France and he used it fully, conveniently forgetting that the MIRAGE also added an extra brand to the IAF inventory and that for a long time we had just about two squadrons (total 36 aircraft) of Mirage 2000 aircraft and now have 41 of them on the inventory. Do we notice that both these points, the small number (36) of Rafale jets ordered and the variety of different aircraft held by the IAF are points of targetted criticism by Mr. Shekhar Gupta on many occasions.
    What exactly do you have in mind to say Mr. Gupta ? And do you have a solution to suggest? What ever solution you may have in mind, is it the best and/or without criticism ?
    -Wg Cdr Ravindra Parasnis (Retd)

  3. It has become fashionable to see everything with jaundiced eye, as if everything was hunky dory all these years and only everythinhg has been going wrong since the ladt 4 yrs.Rahul Gandhi who has not held any administrative or decision making post has suddenly an expert in all fields, what irks him is the lack of middle men, profit to his party

  4. From the report published here, the observation 0f the common reader is that not a single Defence Officer, not even the former army Chief General Malik, has given a clear cut opinion saying as to who has gone wrong and exactly where. They have avoided fixing responsibility and in the bargain generally left the point they were making quite vague. Or else it is very poor reporting, perhaps deliberate, as the publishers had their own axe to grind. The former HAL Chief’s defence of his own establishment is understandable. After all who wants to own his own mistakes?Nevertheless, there are sources more than one who have talked adversely about the qualitative manufacture and timely production schedule of the said aircraft manufacturing company. The former Defence Officers should have been more forthright.
    No one has given a proper solution either.
    Why can’t we accept that the monopoly status of the HAL has affected its own working and it is time the Government created competition in this field.
    The projected requirement of level playing field for the Private Sector is appreciated and hopefully will be promoted by the present Government.
    Wg Cdr Ravindra Parasnis (Retd)

  5. Someone asked – which is easier? Improving HAL or starting a new firm? Asking hundreds of employees practicing old methods to change overnight? Or picking up a new team of enthusiastic, young engineers? Who don’t just log-in/log-out and do much more than waiting for tea break, lunch break and go home one hour before time with a proper permission. And spend 2-3 hours to get that permission.

  6. Any organization develops a work culture over a period of time. It is not possible to change it is a short time. HAL has never understood the value of time. Besides we must push for a private military-industrial complex. It may take half a century for it to build but it will be worth the effort.

  7. Reliance is offset partner for the Advance delivery of 36 Rafels. So Relaiance has to mainly provide maintenance and labour support. If HAL is chosen for the purpose then, it has capability to reverse engineer the advanced utilities in Rafel, and if successfuly replicated, India might renegotiate the price of remaining 112 Jets which are to be manufactured/ assembeled in India obviously by HAL. So Dassault choosing some one but HAL makes sense.

  8. While there is clamour to shut down the dpsu from enlightened public, it may be like the bard saying…the evil that men do lives aft them,; the good is often interred in their bones” Now the lone investor is the government itself. Does it not mean that govt could not hire the right people to run the both brain and brawn and also ensure growth not only in commerce but in engineering and design and ip generation. Could we not have firmed the aetonauticsl commission and tun this business like space and atomic energy.. citizens could be a bit more fair

  9. In these times anyone having capital can hire competent people and make something. But will it workout profitably in the scale allowed by Indian market. Will the investor give undeterred service of engineering and other manufacturing g
    and 30 year related life time serv ices , including engineering if updates and the special ones required during conflicts on the basis of mission rather than commerce.
    In these times you don’t just sell aircraft. You sell high quality flying hours for the life of air craft may be 3000 to 6000 hours say 30 to40 years in our scenario and very fast turnarounds etc you need to have businessmen with mission , let us see
    You can hire brain and brawn workers
    But mission ?

  10. Sir,i am an engineer in a big PSU.we are not building nation but sucking blood of nation. Time have come to shift defence industries to privet sector.personnely i may suffer but country will gain.excluding HAL a good decesion.It is Ambani or jindal that is no an issue.On globalisation RAO sir ex PM also face same probleme like present.

  11. Next step will be HAL to be sold to Private sector .

    Then they will import the spares from worldover and produce new things at cheap.

    What about indeginous?

    Is there any company looking for there own product?

    Still we don’t have cars indeginously produced.

    Our India should come with there own product not as ofset partner.

  12. Weakening the public sector purposely by hook or by crook and enabling the private sector to make vulgar amount of profits seems to be the only goal today. Forget about that once India used to be a welfare state. The poor and the Middle class will be left high and dry to rot in hell.

  13. Dassault is not fully private it’s basically run by and funded by French government. With all the respect for the former Air Chiefs the problem is partly because of the Indian Air Force as well. How ever what is bad is that when this deal was made India Air Force was directly managing and monitoring the delivery of LCAs under HAL. Similar setup could also have been reached for the Rafael. Rafael deal is a scam of billions of dollars of public money. But the doubts raised over HALs capabilities and Rafael deal is just a diversion tactics. It’s already in public domain that Rafael deal was done without wider consultation and without the knowledge of the then defence minister Manohar Parikar. Modi has made India and banana republic and the so called bhakta are getting sucked by it.

  14. I do not understand the reason as to why our services are accepting the time extension proposals made by Public Sector companies and Ordnance Factories from the already finalised schedule of deliveries ?

  15. What’s easier?
    Launching an altogether new setup OR improving an already existing one (and especially one that has not just been in the business for decades already but also been efficiently dispensing it’s duties and helping the nation protect its borders from the enemies.

    Is that rocket science?
    One wonders!

  16. HAL is giving us fighter jets since 1983 or 1984. Which no one has seen, Tejas too was a disastrous failure by HAL. Happy to see that Dassault have chosen a new partner. The fear if that scamster congress oops Gandhi family govt is voted back to loot we will see incompetent HAL again.

  17. It could be understood why Rafeal rejected HAL but never understood why she choose Anil Ambani’s inexperience Company in multi billion dollor deal? Not only Rafael, Modi Government or even Anil Ambani able to tell the people why Rafeal choose Ambani, unless and until there is some pressure from Modi government it is highly impossible that Rafael choose Ambani.

  18. Not true see how made in India has progressed in the Indian Navy from Frigates to stealth destroyers to Aircraft carriers to conventional submarines to Nuclear submarines have all been built to world acceptable specifications by private public cooperation& their joint efforts and Navy’s trust in them., Making nuclear submarines is not every ones cup of tea which requires very high scale of technical skills. The fault also lies with our Army and the Airforce who are enamoured by every imported equipment and have fetish desire for every thing foreign , may be kick back carrot is too juicy to ignore!

  19. If Dassault a private firm can flourish why not Indian firms .the commission govt congis allowed private in petroleum industry and others but defence kept to import only for Swiss bank deposits of all purchases in dollies that too sub standard . Rafale appears the best in aircraft for its armament platform ,a secret the congis wants to sell to China Russia and america thru supreme court where leak of info is easy since congi agents proliferate there .

  20. I feel our PM has always tried his best for the country. If it goes to ambani how does it matter. Experience? It depends on the quality of the engineers, the research scientists and other staffs. Not on Ambani. Any government organization are mostly corrupt, inept and mostly have tea parties instead of work. They have plenty of meetings and committees without any results. Look at USA. How advanced their weapons are because of the private sector. The Gandhis and their pack of congressi hyenas have developed the commission system, the no love of our country mentality and damage the demography of the country. I wonder why at all we need parties and such kind of a system.

  21. I think the honourable Ex Military chief has to also tell why HAL should not be penalised & Punished for delaying deliveries of TEJAS & Sukhoi by 4 to 5 years making country unsafe?

  22. BjP government taking it in a almost correct way to build a private public robust defence sector.
    @paul dhanasekaran please go through the wiki of Pipavav shipping complex and conpany which has tech base and delivery record of world class navy container in defence thats the base company of reliance defence along with some other companies.ambani had started this workout back then in 2006/07.dont just blame like kids without homework. If u love and like this country than blame red tape and bueraucracy i
    At defence office in delhi.

  23. Like the public sector biological sciences n Pharmacy sectors government owned Hindustan Antibiotics and Haefkine Institute once we’re shining examples they gave way to private sector Giants like Cipla, Ranbaxy and Serum Institutes which produced affordable higher grade research products.
    TIME HAS COME FOR the Ordinance Factories and Hindustan Aironautics to re calibrate and start accepting Stark reality that they need to rework themselves or perish another example is Air India the Maharaja is now a pauper sitting in his ruined castle where walls are crumbling .
    The government came for changing India removing inefficiencies making it stronger, but changed course Midway we know this government is trustworthy and honesty cannot be doubted so carry on stay the course, we educated Indians trust you to do the right things, get private sector involved big time.

  24. Rightly said the DRDO, HAL, Ordnance Factories have become a liability since ages and its about time they are told to either ‘Produce or Perish’.

  25. If any neta wants a heart surgery, he should come to me. Although I have not seen an operation theatre, I will learn from my experience. The neta must not go to AIIMS .
    This is the story of Ambani firm ( me) and HAL ( AIIMS).

  26. Those who got brain let him used it,why shold we buy vegetables from market when we at our home grown it.

  27. Mr general your conern is genuine but why partnership needs with bankrupt company having no production experience. Level playing in terms of techonlogy and innovation is good but nepotism is qustionable. At this point you are using your credibility in wrong way. Why not with TATA, L & T etc…sorry. youth of India direly needs employment too don’t forget it once you have become general. Your level playing intellect must not be limited to arms and ammunition only. It also must be poverty and employment level playing.

  28. HAL is incompetent, all government companies have a laid back attitude. The personnel are not answerable for lack in performance, however when it is a private entity if there is no performance he or she has to leave or is sacked.

    Anil Ambani doesnot need to know how to manufacture aircraft parts. He can employ competent people from aeronautical industry. Ex CEO of Boeing has joined Dassault-Reliance.

    HAL has still not been able to deliver a good light combat aircraft Tejas. See any PSU all are incompentent (Air India), the general feeling is once a person enters a PSU he will retire from there, the salaries and perks are good, no work pressure. Salaries are revised by pay commission.

    Indian airforce is still flying second or third generation aircrafts whereas leading airforces are already flying 4.5 generation and trials are going on for fifth generation fighters.

  29. How can you ignore the valuable, comprehensive and intelligent comments and allegations by Rahul Gandhi? It has gone a way too long. Of course, there was a valid reason to observe secrecy. It is a matter of the defense of the nation. Are Tejas Planes are ready today? Would they be better than Raffel? I strongly believe that when it comes to the Defense of the Nation, all parties should be united. I am in the USA for the last 40 years and have retired from the position of Senior Engineer. It pains me when I see Rahul criticizing Modi Government without even knowing what he is talking about.

  30. Who lowered the height of flying for HELICOPTER S for VVIP S. is it a limitation from Italian mafiosi S breed n is she not implicated in bogus deals in the code name of FAM n AP?

  31. In India, whether BJP or Congress (Political leadership) lacks the decisive will power to manufacture defence equipments/arms. Saying PSUs are waste, is absolutely wrong. If India can manufacture missiles, satellites, rockets for launching satellites, why can’t we manufacture fighter planes and arms/weapons. If they have money for buying expensive fighter planes or providing Rice and Wheat @ Re 1 or 2, why can’t they do investment in Defence Production.

  32. Indian politicians are always a rogue for the development of the country with their corrupt practices. Having said that we have more than enough pressure from foreign manufacturers to buy from them.

    For example during UPA2 time the then Petroleum Minister (Maran if I am not wrong) said on record that the international lobby is not allowing them to reduce crude import.

    Here is the point to understand where should the developed world manufacturing products be sold. So the obvious answer is countries like India where we already have enough of hatred for each other coupled with corrupt politicians is the best place. Second comes the Arab world who can be otherwise bombed if even thought of any such activity. Iran is very close example which is not yet bombed but implemented economic sanctions. Iraq it’s neighbour bombed twice for going against Western interests. For which Tony Blair the then PM of UK has regretted openly for not doing enough homework on their part and accepting the proposal under pressure from the other alliance partners.

  33. This article is cleverly written so that one is made to believe that the PSUs were destroyed of its capabilities and competence in the last four years. Actually the problem lies in production costs that is almost three times the value of the product, Bad management and trade unionism at worker-level given the go-by.
    Subtle sycophancy by the author.

  34. 70 years of Congress dynasty looters And commission agens rule destroyed our military forces this Congress ws looking for commission only not for development of the nation and 10 year’s Italian born bar attender led era more volguarable for armed forces

  35. while agreeing that Malik has made a valid point on the likely reasons rejecting HAL, he has completely omitted to substantiate the possible reasons for selecting Reliance, which had zero antecedents in the defence manufacturing industry besides existing defaults in delivery of its contracts with the Indian Navy. The entire exercise was begging for transparency and credibility.
    Every government, irrespective of political affiliation, has milked the defence cow, the world over. History shows how wars have always been super lucrative businesses.

  36. All stake holders, PSUs, Armed Forces and Govt must share the blame for the defence make in India not picking up.
    PSUs are unable to stick to the time line, lack high end quality standards and suffer from man management.
    Defence forces want many field trials, change the parameters citing time lapse and mostly prefer import.
    Govt is indecisive, unable to find adequate funds for military as opposed to social sector spending and is more bureaucratic in decision making in defence deals.

  37. On the name of make in india by BJP government fake Ambani is Hobson’s choice recommended by Modi during his visit to France. The expertise of HAL cannot be matched by Ambani’ s “no production” as far. Nirmala visited France to request French authorities not to reveal the truth. Modi ‘Ambani and Nirmala are cheats . They cheated the nation.

  38. Indian forces have always prefered to import arms/jets etc rather than giving importance to those that are made in India. This attitude prevents private sector from investing in any defense project, also the Govt hesitate to do the same.

    • Indian forces have “preferred to import” because quite simply what they wanted or needed was not available in India. In private industry, the manufacturer must take the risk.
      Also, as said above, the fat-cat workers of ordnance factories will strike if they are privatized.
      Even HAL can be privatized. Why not?

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