India to emerge as a powerful global military through self-reliance: PM Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the country’s goal under the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign was to emerge as a powerful military in the world and develop modern defence industry in the country under its own steam, and the steps taken by the government during the last seven years were driven by the self-reliance mantra and aimed at taking this resolve (to build military and defence capabilities) forward.
“The transparency, trust and technology-driven approach” prevailing in the defence sector was never witnessed before.” the PM said.
“For the first time after Independence, big defence reforms are taking place in the defence sector. Instead of policies that were a hindrance, a single-window system has been put in place, leading to an increase in the industry’s confidence. Indian companies are looking for opportunities in the defence sector, and now the private sector and the government are working together to achieve the national security mission,” Modi said.
Policy changes have resulted defence exports shooting up to more than 325 % over the last five years, he said.
PM’s comments came while dedicating to the nation on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami, also known as Dussehra; seven new defence companies carved out of the now dissolved Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). He said the new entities would play a critical role in helping the country cut down military imports in line with the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
In the 21st century, the growth and brand value of any country or company will be determined by its research and innovation, Modi said.
“From software to the space sector; India’s growth, its new identity is the biggest example of this (research and innovation). I ask all companies and these seven new firms to make research and innovation a part of their work culture,” he said.
“You have to not only match the big companies in the world, but also take lead in future technologies. That’s why it’s important that you have new thinking, give maximum opportunities to research-oriented youth and give them freedom to think. I also ask Indian start-ups to be a part of this new journey in the defence sector.” He said while cost competitiveness was India’s strength; high quality and reliability should be the country’s identity.
Last month, the PM said India was shedding its image of being a major importer of military hardware and carving out an identity for itself as a defence exporter, at a time the government has taken several measures to boost self-reliance in the key sector as well as tap the potential of defence markets globally.
The world had taken note of the strides made by the country in defence manufacturing with locally produced equipment ranging from modern grenades, assault rifles and drones to fighter jets and warships, PM said on September 14 at a public function in Aligarh.
“I am confident that these seven companies will form a strong base for the military strength of the country in the times to come,” he said in a video address, adding that the corporatisation of OFB had been hanging fire for 15 to 20 years.
The Union Cabinet, headed Modi, cleared the board’s corporatisation in June to boost its efficiency and competitiveness in a long-awaited reform in the country’s defence manufacturing sector.
The OFB, which earlier controlled 41 ordnance factories, has been split into seven government-owned entities that will produce ammunition and explosives, vehicles, weapons and equipment, troop comfort items, opto-electronics gear, parachutes and ancillary products. The government issued an order last month dissolving OFB with effect from October 1.
“This year India has entered its 75th year of independence. The country is making new resolutions to build a new future, and completing work that was stuck for decades,” PM said.
The new companies are Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited, Troop Comforts Limited, India Optel Limited, Munitions India Limited, Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited (AVANI), Gliders India Limited and Yantra India Limited.
The restructuring would provide more autonomy to the new companies to nurture innovation and expertise, he said.
Ordnance factories were engaged in the production of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, mine protected vehicles, bombs, rockets, artillery guns, anti-aircraft guns, parachutes, small arms, clothing and leather equipment for soldiers.
The government expects the seven new professionally managed entities to increase their share in the domestic market through better capacity utilisation and also tap new export opportunities. During the last two decades, various high-level committees underlined the need to improve the functioning of OFB and making its factories vehicles of self-reliance for the country’s defence preparedness.
PM said the ordnance factories had a glorious past, but their upgradation was ignored in the post-independence period, leading to the country’s dependence on foreign suppliers. “These seven defence companies will play a major role in changing this situation,” he said.
PM said the government has ensured that the interests of the employees are fully protected.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh said the corporatisation of OFB will help overcome various shortcomings in the previous set-up and provide the new companies incentive to become competitive.
“The objective of this restructuring is to transform Ordnance Factories into productive and profitable assets, improve expertise in product range, increase competitiveness, improve quality, enhance cost-efficiency and ensure self-reliance in defence preparedness,” Singh added.
All the indents previously placed on OFB by various services, CAPFs and state police have been converted into deemed contracts. These deemed contracts numbering 66 have a cumulative value of more than ₹65,000 crore, as previously reported by HT.
The All-India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF) and three other workers’ associations boycotted the official inauguration of the new companies, said AIDEF general secretary C Srikumar. “We wore black badges and boycotted the function along with our families. We will decide the future course of our protests shortly,” he said.
In a major push to the self-reliance campaign in the defence sector, India has signed contracts and cleared projects worth almost ₹54,000 crore during the last one-and-a-half month to boost the military’s capabilities with locally produced weapons and systems including transport planes, tanks, helicopters, airborne early warning systems and counter-drone weapons.
India has set aside ₹70,221 crore this year for domestic defence procurement, accounting for 63% of the military’s capital budget. Last year, the ministry spent over ₹51,000 crore, or 58% of the capital budget, on domestic purchases.
The country has also decided to ban the import of 209 weapons and systems to boost self- reliance. The ban, to be implemented progressively till 2025, covers artillery guns, missile destroyers, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, long-range land attack cruise missiles, basic trainer aircraft and different types of helicopters.