Defence Production Policy, 2018: Production goals ambitious, but achievable, say industry leaders
The goals set in India’s draft defence production policy are ambitious but achievable if adequate budget is made available, bottlenecks are removed and building an industrial ecosystem is top priority, industry leaders have said.
The draft Defence Production Policy-2018, released in March, visualises India as one of the top five countries in the aerospace and defence sectors in the coming years, with defence goods and services accounting for a turnover of Rs1.7 lakh crore by 2025.
According to the policy, achieving the target would require an investment of Rs70,000 crore and could create up to three million jobs. Another goal is to clock exports worth Rs35,000 crore by 2025.
“We believe that by laying down clear targets, the government has put forward an ambitious yet measurable plan for transforming the defence industry,” said Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, who heads the French aerospace and defence firm, Thales, in India.
Roquefeuil said his company looked forward “to more details and directions” from the government on how foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could contribute to enhancing India’s defence preparedness. “Adequate budget availability for capital acquisitions is an area that would need the government’s support.”
The draft policy comes at a time when India has been ranked the world’s largest importer of weapons for the 10th straight year by well-known think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
So what will it take to reverse the trend and become an exporter?
“The products made in India are high-tech but mainly for local defence needs and they might need to be adapted to meet specific foreign requirement,” said Rear Admiral RK Shrawat (retd), who heads the French Naval Group in India, which is helping build Scorpene submarines locally.
“Indian manufacturers and integrators might like to team with foreign OEMs, from whom they are importing systems and equipment,” he said, adding India’s engineering capabilities and competences could be tapped to achieve export targets.
The policy seeks to cut down by 2025 India’s dependence on imported military hardware including fighter jets, helicopters, warships, combat vehicles and missiles.
“It’s a grand vision document with unambiguous goals…To realise the targets, it is imperative to have clear timebound plans for execution,” said Lieutenant General (retd) Subrata Saha, director general for Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, and principal advisor, Confederation of Indian Industry.
But what are the possible hurdles? “Process bottlenecks and entrenched mindset are potentially high hurdles. Organisational security for well-meaning decisions could help overcome risk aversion,” Saha added.