US Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary had as­sured that the US aims to take the In­doUS de­fence re­la­tion­ship to the next level and help In­dia raise the in­di­geni­sa­tion of its de­fence sys­tems.


Just be­fore em­bark­ing on his visit to Ja­pan, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has sig­naled another boost to in­di­geni­sa­tion. The ear­lier decision to man­u­fac­ture medium-level mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft in In­dia has now been re­in­forced by the decision of man­u­fac­tur­ing light util­ity he­li­copters (LUH) also in In­dia in­stead of im­port­ing them. As per me­dia re­ports, the global ten­der ear­lier is­sued for im­port of 197 LUH from abroad has been can­celled. This would give a fur­ther boost to the de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try.

How­ever, at the mo­ment it is not clear whether the Hin­dus­tan Aeronat­ics Limited (HAL) is per­mit­ted to go for joint ven­ture (JV) for the LUH. HAL has been kept away from the medium-level mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft to be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia. The global ten­der for LUH was val­ued at ` 3,000 crore and had been is­sued in 2008 un­der the UPA Gov­ern­ment but the se­lec­tion process was em­broiled in al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion and tech­ni­cal de­vi­a­tions. Sig­nif­i­cantly, such ten­der for LUH has been can­celled for the third time that will lead to fur­ther de­lay in re­plac­ing the age­ing LUH fleets of the In­dian Army and the Air Force. As per one me­dia re­port, this move of man­u­fac­tur­ing the LUH in In­dia could re­sult in gen­er­at­ing business worth ` 40,000 crore, which would also in­clude mak­ing up voids of the Army and the Air Force and also as re­place­ment of some 197 Chee­tah and Chetak he­li­copters in the Alou­ette cat­e­gory.

As per me­dia re­ports, the Union Home Min­istry is un­der­stood to have cleared a pro­posal from the Tata Group to pro­duce he­li­copters in In­dia. How­ever, in re­plac­ing the Chee­tah and Chetak he­li­copters, the size of the he­li­pad re­quired will need to be kept in mind. The cur­rent Dhruv (ALH) he­li­copter that too was en­vis­aged to re­place the Chee­tah and Chetak he­li­copters has not been able to do so fully be­cause it needs a he­li­pad of larger di­men­sions and be­cause of this can­not land at some of the for­ward posts, es­pe­cially in high al­ti­tudes, on the Sal­toro Range in the Si­achen Glacier area.

The mood of in­di­geni­sa­tion ap­pears to be catch­ing on with Tata, Re­liance and Mahin­dra all tak­ing steps to open mil­i­tary hard­ware pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties in the coun­try. It is es­ti­mated that it will take at least five years for the LUH pro­duc­tion to start by the Tata Group. There­fore, the Army and Air Force will be ex­pected to wait that much. But this may be am­bi­tious con­sid­er­ing that the Tata Group has lit­tle ex­per­tise in he­li­copter man­u­fac­ture, will re­quire time to set up the nec­es­sary in­fra­struc­ture, ac­quire skilled per­son­nel, plus it de­pends on how soon the JV can be es­tab­lished and which for­eign firm can be roped in con­sid­er­ing that the FDI up­per limit re­mains at 49 per cent. Speed and qual­ity will be def­i­nite re­quire­ments to fruc­tify the Prime Min­is­ter’s dream to make In­dia an ex­port des­ti­na­tion for de­fence equip­ment. The gov­ern­ment has also cleared the pur­chase of in­te­grated anti-sub­ma­rine suits for 11 front­line war­ships. The in­stru­ment which is now be­ing de­vel­oped by the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) is likely to cost the ex­che­quer some ` 1,770 crore. With the best GDP growth in the last two-and-ahalf years, the gov­ern­ment has surely given the sig­nal for in­di­geni­sa­tion at the right time. All this boost to in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion will not only boost the GDP growth fur­ther but also cre­ate the much needed em­ploy­ment con­sid­er­ing that we have some 4.68 crore of our pop­u­la­tion un­em­ployed, bulk of which are youth.

It is well known that In­dia is one of the big­gest im­porters of de­fence equip­ment and nearly two per­cent of the coun­try’s GDP is spent on de­fence im­ports. The decision to make the LUH will give In­dian firms as­sured or­ders and pro­vided in­cen­tive for in­vest­ing in R&D. Other projects in­clude: ac­cep­tance of ne­ces­sity for 118 Ar­jun Mark-II main bat­tle tanks, with 89 up­grades at a cost of ` 6,600 crore; 40 self-pro­pelled cat­a­pult gun sys­tems on Ar­jun cha­sis at a cost of ` 820 crore; open­ing of com­mer­cial bids of Euro­pean NH-90 he­li­copter (linked to Fin­mec­ca­nica) and US Sikrosky-708 he­li­copter in race to sup­ply 16 naval multi-role he­li­copters at a cost of ` 1,800 crore; midlife up­grade and life ex­ten­sion of four Kilo or Sind­hughosh class (Rus­sian) sub­marines and 2xHDW or Shisku­mar class (Ger­man) sub­marines at a cost of ` 4,800 crore, and; ded­i­cated army com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mo­bile sys­tem for three Corps along the Sino-In­dian bor­der.

Con­cur­rent to sig­nal­ing boost­ing in­di­geni­sa­tion, the gov­ern­ment has also cleared the pur­chase of 15 x Chi­nook and 22 x Apache he­li­copters from the US at an es­ti­mated cost of ` 15,000 crore. This is a smart cal­i­brated move that sig­nals strength­en­ing of the Indo-US strate­gic part­ner­ship fur­ther as a pre­lude to Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s visit to the US and his sched­uled meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. It may be re­called that the US-In­dia De­fence Tech­nol­ogy and Trade Ini­tia­tive (DTTI) was launched last Septem­ber at New Delhi and the US Deputy De­fense Sec­re­tary had as­sured that the US aims to take the Indo-US de­fence re­la­tion­ship to the next level and help In­dia raise the in­di­geni­sa­tion of its de­fence sys­tems.

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