Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focused his attention on building a robust indigenous defence industry base, ramping up the military’s capabilities and stitching up alliances to expand strategic cooperation regionally and globally during the last six months.
The defence manufacturing sector looks poised for growth, with the government deciding to contract out major projects to the domestic industry in line with his ‘Make in India’ pitch.
The NDA government has taken some quick decisions to fill gaps in the military’s capabilities. Key projects worth more than Rs 140,000 crore have been cleared since May, putting the momentum back into some stalled defence deals.
Projects that have gathered steam relate to procurement of next-generation submarines, anti-tank guided missiles, artillery guns, attack helicopters, heavy-lift choppers and tanks.
The government also raised the cap on foreign direct investment in the defence sector from 26% to 49% to speed up indigenisation and bring in modern defence technologies.
Backed by a government that seeks to transform India from the world's biggest weapons importer into an export powerhouse, the Defence Research and Development Organisation has identified 15 weapon systems that could help the country get its foot in the door in the international arms bazaar.
Modi told India’s top military scientists in August the country had the potential to be a world leader in the defence sector but was being held back by a “chalta hai” attitude. India imports around 70% of its defence hardware, with the US recently overtaking Russia as its biggest arms supplier.
The Modi government has strengthened defence ties at the global level. It has taken steps to "co-develop and co-produce" state-of-the-art weapon systems to expand defence cooperation with the US.
With an eye on China, India and Australia have stitched up a framework for security cooperation involving annual meeting of prime ministers, defence policy talks, regular joint naval manoeuvres and cooperation in defence research and development.
The government has also adopted a more pragmatic policy on blacklisting defence contractors who may have violated the law. The rationale is to strike a balance between the need to punish such contractors and to keep the armed forces battle ready.
Modi travelled to Siachen on Diwali, giving his own personal touch to boost the morale of soldiers.
Toning military muscle
Rs 50,000 crore: 6 next-generation submarines to be built in India
Rs 15,750 crore: 814 artillery guns to be built here
Rs 15,000 crore: 56 transport planes for IAF to be produced in India
Rs 15,000 crore: 22 Apache gunships, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers
Rs 9,000 crore: 56 naval utility helicopters to be built here
Rs 6,000 crore: 8 minesweepers to be built in India