India's defence scientists and the military industry should develop greater synergies to optimise their operations and prevent overlaps, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said.
The defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the defence ministry should adopt a "collegiate approach" as this would ensure better coordination and would enable the development of new products, Mukherjee maintained.
He made the remarks while reviewing the performance of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) as part of his ongoing study of DPSU operations. Mukherjee has already reviewed the working of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL), and Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL).
Mukherjee also urged the DPSUs to put in place "appropriate mechanisms" to absorb the inflow of technology and funds that would accrue from India's new offsets policy for defence procurements.
The new policy, which came into effect earlier this year, makes it mandatory for foreign companies signing defence deals worth over Rs 3 billion ($65 million) to re-invest 30 percent of the amount in India.
It has been estimated that the offsets policy is likely to bring in $10 billion during the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-11), opening up new growth avenues in terms of technology upgrades, industry participation, exports and employment generation.
"Capital expenditure on defence during the plan period will be Rs.300 billion per year and Rs.1.5 trillion for the entire period. Thirty percent of this - Rs.500 billion will flow back by way of offsets," a defence ministry spokesman explained.
The first priority for the offsets investments will be in defence-related industries, followed by other sectors.
During the review of HAL, its chairman Ashok Baweja made a presentation on the company's activities and highlighted the fact that flight trials of an upgraded Jaguar fighter aircraft with an indigenous mission computer had been completed. The new equipment had considerably enhanced the aircraft's capabilities, Baweja added.
He also said that a technical snag that had grounded the HAL-developed advanced light helicopter (ALH) had been resolved and that it had been progressively re-inducted into service.
HAL, Baweja pointed out, was working on co-development of a multi-role transport aircraft, a medium-lift helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The minister appreciated the impressive performance of GRSE during 2005-06 in delivering ships to the Indian Navy.
Among these is the third in a series of four fast attack craft that was handed over June 26 and is to be commissioned as INS Battimalv at Port Blair July 26.
The vessel, named after one of the islands in the Lakshadweep chain in the Arabian Sea, is advanced in more ways than one, especially in terms of its design and operational capabilities.
Capable of travelling at 28 knots, the ship is armed with a 30-mm gun, missiles and light and medium machine guns.
On July 1, GRSE acquired the Rajabagan Dockyard in Kolkata to enhance its shipbuilding capacity for meeting the requirements of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. GRSE funded the acquisition from its own resources, without any support from the government or market borrowings.