The moribund policies of indigenisation of defence production, the advances made in recent years and the long and arduous march towards self reliance in defence production were among the issues discussed Friday on the second day of the Military Literature Festival (MLF) 2020.
The evening session saw a riveting panel discussion on ‘Self-reliance towards defence preparedness’. The session was moderated by MV Kotwal, member L&T Board with Vishnu Som principal anchor and Executive Editor NDTV, Rahul Bedi, journalist, Brig Suresh Gangadharan, Rajeev Chandrashekhar MP, and Harpal Singh from corporate Sector being the panelists.
The panelists agreed that India is one of the largest buyers of the defence equipment in the world market and this contrasts sharply to the ‘Make in India’ call. MV Kotwal brought home the crux of the discussion as unanimously agreed upon by the panelists that there is no wisdom in making every piece of technology indigenously but nation must prioritize what is strategically important to be developed and focus on its development.
Need for national security policy cutting across political thinking, with a long-term strategy to invest in key areas, was the core of the discussion.
Brig Suresh Gangadharan advocated standardization and scalability of defense inventory. He spoke for seamless integration of military, R&D, academia and industry.
Harpal Singh put forth the citizen’s perspective of national security; their concerns as to whether our defense eco-system is oiled enough to independently develop weapons to protect the nation or are we still dependent upon others for our defense.
Vishnu Som said that in last 10 years or so, we have made remarkable strides in the process of defence manufacturing. “We can build and design world class /state of the art missiles. But, our indigenous manufacturing faces image crisis leading to deniability and thereby importing weapons is preferred. This needs to be addressed along with provision of sufficient finances for the projects, since domestic weapons won’t come cheap unless the scale of manufacture is humongous,” he said.
Rahul Bedi opined that multiplicity of policies and agencies in defence manufacture leads to a lot of confusion in indigenization process. “Self sufficiency as a principle is excellent to strive for but we need to look at in a holistic way and battle should not be fought between private sector and public sector,” said Bedi.
Rajeev Chandrashekhar suggested that we cannot let current structure of lab led development to continue; it has to be much more vibrant eco-system of ideas. We need to evolve a paradigm which is in keeping with the objectives and aspirations that we have as a nation.