Avinash Chander on Monday said he respected the government’s decision to truncate his term as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief but regretted that it had cut short big dreams too.
In an exclusive interview to HT, his first after being sacked on January 13 , Chander said the government was free to take decisions but he would harbour the regret that he wouldn’t be around to steer the DRDO’s foray into the lucrative global arms market.
“My biggest dream was to export DRDO-developed weapon systems. It would have been the highlight of my 42-year-long career,” said Chander, whose contract is being terminated on January 31 — 16 months before his term ends. The government cut short Chander’s term as it wanted someone younger to man the crucial post.
Chander is the man behind the Agni series of missiles whose existing variants can hit targets at ranges of 700km to 3,500 km. Future versions of the series are expected to cross the 5,000-km mark.
He said India’s strategic missile programme was the DRDO’s crown jewel. “India’s missile capability was zero when I joined in 1972. Today we can proudly claim it compares with the best in the world,” he said.
The new DRDO chief will take over at a time when a major restructuring of the organisation is underway. Chander said the projects that would require his successor’s immediate attention include final operational clearance of the light combat aircraft, delivering the long-range surface-to-air missile, crucial upcoming trials of the Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and flight tests of Rustom-2 unmanned aerial vehicle.
He said the active electronically scanned array radar for the LCA and the artillery gun project would also require close monitoring.
On PM Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India campaign, he said it would help the country carve out a place for itself in the global arms market and drive the DRDO to become more competitive.