Chandigarh: Absence of a clear policy, lack of accountability for defence public sector units and a perennial fund crunch — these are the reasons listed by experts as to why Narendra Modi government’s flagship ‘Make in India’ programme failed to take off in the defence sector.
Former Army chief General (retired) V.P. Malik, Lieutenant General (retired) Arun Sahni and former financial adviser in the defence ministry Amit Cowshish were speaking at a session on ‘Make in India and the Nation’s Security’ at the third edition of the Military Literature Festival organised by the Punjab government in Chandigarh. The festival began Friday and will continue until Sunday.
Talking about being self-reliant in defence, General Malik, who headed the Army during the Kargil war in 1999, said self-reliance was one of the most important lessons India learnt from the conflict.
“Unless we become adequately self-reliant, our national security remains vulnerable,” Malik said.
Giving an example of the importance of self-reliance, Malik said during the Kargil conflict, the Army had ordered for a purchase of two regiments of 155 mm Denel guns from South Africa, but when the weapons were to be delivered, they said they don’t have them.
The former Army chief also gave the example of satellite imagery, which when bought at a huge cost from another country, turned out to be three years old and futile for the forces.
Malik also spoke about weapon-locating radars, which the Army had to buy in 2003 at double the cost of the initial price, but ultimately it did not purchase them after the DRDO promised to develop the radars.
“I don’t think we have adequate accountability in some of our defence organisations like the DRDO (Defence Research Development Organisation),” he said.
“When you give protection to your defence PSUs and do not give adequate assurance to the private sector, it will be discouraged…Then everyone is working in silos and as a result, there is no interaction,” he said, adding that it is a “crucial reason why Make in India has failed to make progress in the defence sector”.
He further said the armed forces are always blamed for supporting imports, but added that they have no other alternatives.
‘Make in India started off as a slogan’
Cowshish highlighted the policy lacunae when it comes to implementing ‘Make in India’ in defence.
“There is no clear policy on ‘Make in India’ in defence. Talking about indigenisation, what is it? Is it cost-saving or import-substitution or innovation? We are not clear,” he said.
Sahni, meanwhile, said ‘Make in India’ started off as a slogan and “you can have slogans for social causes. But it needed processes and procedures to be rectified. It needs to be opened up.”
Sahni also said more funds needed to be allocated for the upgrade of military warfare. “We need a more serious approach where accountability is fixed for producing unusable products at the public sector institutions working in the sphere,” he said.