Rooting for increased self-reliance in the defence sector, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Monday said only indigenous technologies will be available to the military for full exploitation during conflicts and war-like situations.
“Developing indigenous capabilities to confront emerging security challenges and reduce our dependence on borrowed technologies is imperative,” Naravane said at a seminar organised jointly by the defence ministry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
He said the industry’s enthusiastic participation in the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) campaign reaffirmed the country’s collective resolve to fight and win future wars with indigenous weapons and equipment.
He said the army was undergoing rapid modernisation and increasingly looking at indigenous solutions for its operational needs. “India has an expanding industrial base and we are confident that most of our core requirements can be realised in-house.”
Naravane’s comments come at a time when the government is encouraging self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector through a slew of policy decisions. India has signed contracts and cleared projects worth almost ₹62,000 crore in less than two months to boost military capability with locally produced weapons and systems including transport planes, tanks, helicopters, airborne early warning systems and counter-drone weapons.
The army chief enumerated steps taken by the government for promoting self-reliance, including increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) from 49% to 74%, notifying two lists of 209 weapons/equipment that cannot be imported and creating a separate budget for buying locally-made military hardware.
“These reforms will have a significant impact in times to come. We are privileged to be the agents of this change that has the potential to redefine India as a global hub for manufacturing defence equipment,” Naravane said.
Enabling policy measures, swift decision making and accelerating process timelines have induced new confidence in the success of ‘Make’ projects, he said.
‘Make’ is a category of capital acquisition in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and the cornerstone of the Make in India initiative that seeks to build indigenous capabilities through the involvement of both the public and private sectors.
‘Make-I’ refers to government-funded projects while ‘Make-II’ covers industry-funded programmes.
Another sub-category is ‘Make-III’ that covers military hardware that may not be designed and developed indigenously, but can be manufactured in the country for import substitution, and Indian firms may manufacture these in collaboration with foreign partners.
“Make-II is undoubtedly going to remain the preferred mode of acquisition for us. The Indian Army is participating in 36 ‘Make’ projects, including 15 projects which are suo moto proposals from the industry,” Naravane said.
He released a list of ‘Make’ projects that the industry can participate in. These projects include surveillance and armed drone swarm, counter-drone systems, low-level light radar for surveillance along eastern and northern borders with China, infantry weapon training simulator, robotic surveillance platforms, portable helipads and a variety of ammunition.
“We have to cut down our weapons import bill and eventually tap the export market. The Make in India campaign seeks to take us in that direction,” said former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd).
On October 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said one of the country’s key goals under the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign was to emerge as one of the most powerful militaries and develop a modern defence industry in the country.