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Make in India hits Russian tech transfer hurdle

The Russian origin T-90 and T-72 tanks are the mainstay battle tanks for India. India bought about 124 T-90 tanks directly from Russia and contracted to make another 1,375 tanks in India by December 2018.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2018 13:00 IST
Hindustan Times
Russian Equipment,T-90 Tanks,T-72 Tanks
The government was also of the view that this would boost the manufacturing of defence equipment in India, especially by the private sector, one of Prime Minister’s articulated objectives. (AFP)

One of the government’s plans to kick-start defence manufacturing in the country as part of its ambitious Make in India programme has run into a stumbling block on account of constraints on sharing original design details and drawings of Russian equipment and curbs on exporting these, documents reviewed by Hindustan Times show.

The specific case involves parts that go into the T-72, T-90 tanks and amphibious armoured troop carriers.

Ordnance Factories Avadi, a defence public sector unit, manufactures the tanks under a licence arrangement. It isn’t financially viable for the factory to make all parts for these and the plans to outsource more to Indian private sector firms.

Hence, it wants to share the original Russian designs with the private sector.

The government was also of the view that this would boost the manufacturing of defence equipment in India, especially by the private sector, one of Prime Minister’s articulated objectives.

India imported about $ 41 billion worth defence equipment last year despite the government push to make some of that in India. It also sees export opportunities in doing this.

The Russian origin T-90 and T-72 tanks are the mainstay battle tanks for India. India bought about 124 T-90 tanks directly from Russia and contracted to make another 1,375 tanks in India by December 2018.

“As regards items of Russian designs, namely for tanks T-72, T-90 and ICV BMP-II, (armoured troop carriers), it has been mentioned that all three contracts have clauses governing maintenance of secrecy with regard to Russian ToT (Transfer of Technology) documentation…While procuring items of Russian ToT from indigenous sources (OFB), factories have to prepare their own drawings/specifications based upon absorption of ToT and share the same for purpose of indigenous sourcing,” the joint secretary (land systems) in the department of defence production wrote in August in response to a query whether designs can be shared with Indian manufacturers.

Put otherwise, this means the original details and drawings can’t be shared; only those made by the ordnance factory can.

And even these cannot be used to make equipment for export. Nor can the manufacturers make derivative products from these drawings.

The ministry of defence spokesperson did not respond to queries seeking comment.

Dr Ajay Kumar, secretary, defence production, said in response to an e-mail that his department is “examining the issue”. “No final conclusions have been arrived at. Any solution will have to be within the framework of our existing agreements.”

“MoD has been pushing very hard. They are reaching out to vendors on both sides at various platforms. And, at the military industrial conferences between India and Russia, several agreements to share technology were signed to address this issue.

“Also, Russia has now agreed to certify components and spare-parts made in India which is a great help. Importantly, Russia is also open to working with the private sector, including the small and medium sectors. A good beginning has been made, things will change soon,” said Lieutenant General Subrata Saha (retd), the former deputy chief of Indian Army and founding DG of Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers.

Russia has now agreed to certify components and spare-parts made in India which is a great help. Importantly, Russia is also open to working with the private sector, including the small and medium sectors

First Published: Nov 09, 2018 13:00 IST