Making is Not Enough

The present Government of India has launched the Make in India campaign. A number of firms which were waiting in the sidelines are either planning to or are jumping into the fray for making weapons, sensors and other systems for the Indian Armed Forces. It is no secret that India is the largest importer of arms in the world. As per reports, the country imports approximately 65% of its weapons requirements. Opening of the defence sector for private players and increase in the FDI limit for arms companies has been hailed at all levels. It is being promoted as a game changer which would make the country self reliant and would boost the indigenous military-industrial complex.

Most of the private firms entering the market are in collaboration with foreign firms. Hence, there is import of technology from the backdoor. The country is still not developing the weapons, systems and technologies. Foreign companies still have control over the technology being offered. They will limit the technology being made available. Also, with passage of time, the royalties required to be paid on the transferred technologies would make the proposition of making in India for Indian Armed Forces expensive . Hence dependence on imported technology would continue.

What is required is that the military-industrial complex in the country develops cutting edge technologies on its own. Collaboration with foreign companies or design bureaus should be acceptable till such time as the product is co-developed. The relationship should not be that of a licensor and licensee. Partnership can be attained either through inter-governmental agreements or through allowing strategic alliances between companies.

It is no secret that R&D in cutting edge, state of the art technologies for weapon systems & sensors, and other military systems like aero-engines, marine gas turbines etc are a very expensive proposition. The private sector may not be in a position to pump in so much of money into R&D by selling the systems only to the Indian Armed Forces. The military-industrial complex should be self sustaining. What is required is to allow these companies to not only sell the systems in India but also in the global market. Allowing sale of arms by Indian firms in the global market would not only allow these companies to increase their spend on R&D but would also make them more competitive and force them to develop better systems which would then be available to the Indian Armed Forces. Also, those companies which fail to win Indian contracts would also be in a position to recover some of their costs by selling these systems to third countries.

Such a scenario would reduce the load from the Government of India to fund each and every weapon development programme.

To achieve this, Government of India may have to overcome its inherent reluctance of selling weapons in the global market. This may require a comprehensive overhaul of the long standing policy of the government. But it has to be understood that for building a robust military-industrial complex, only making in India won't help, there is a need to sell to the world also.

Cdr Rajesh Sinha (Retd)'s profile on LinkedIn