Prime Min­is­ter’s first de­fence show to push ‘Make in In­dia’: Modi’s ‘De­fence Man­u­fac­tur­ing Panchsheel’

SP's MAI - - SP’S EXCLUSIVES -

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi has had mul­ti­ple trysts with the armed forces since he took of­fice in May 2014, show­ing an un­prece­dented in­ter­est in mat­ters mil­i­tary and show­ing a will­ing­ness to be phys­i­cally present with the forces. It be­gan with his day on­board the INS Vikra­ma­ditya, fol­lowed by his in­au­gu­ra­tion of the INS Kolkata in Au­gust last year. And in his third visit in just five months, he made a sur­prise visit to spend Di­wali 2014 with In­dian Army jawans and of­fi­cers in Si­achen. Some would say that in­cli­na­tion it­self is half the battle won for the forces; a po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship that em­pathises and val­ues the forces enough to take the time out. But the ap­peal of the mil­i­tary stretches be­yond sen­ti­men­tal­ism. Prime Min­is­ter Modi sees the de­fence of In­dia as pos­si­bly cru­cial to the rein­ven­tion of In­dia’s econ­omy on fresh foun­da­tions of ag­gres­sive man­u­fac­tur­ing and in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion. And that’s where his ‘Make in In­dia’ phi­los­o­phy comes in. If Prime Min­is­ter Modi is the poster­boy, ‘Make in In­dia’ is with­out doubt the poster.

In a break from tra­di­tion, Prime Min­is­ter Modi has de­cided to inaugurate the Aero In­dia 2015 show, an event tra­di­tion­ally thrown open by the De­fence Min­is­ter of the day. Sources say it was for­mer De­fence Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley’s sug­ges­tion to the Prime Min­is­ter that he call pro­ceed­ings open at Aero In­dia, where ad­vanced sys­tems man­u­fac­tur­ers from In­dia and around the world will be present and lis­ten­ing closely. The idea: to un­der­score and per­son­ally push the ‘Make in In­dia’ idea for de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing. In fact, the Aero In­dia show this year is of­fi­cially ti­tled ‘the 10th in­ter­na­tional show on Make in In­dia in aerospace, de­fence, civil avi­a­tion, air­port in­fra­struc­ture and de­fence en­gi­neer­ing’, a name that sums up the ex­pan­sion of the show’s scope and what the gov­ern­ment is hop­ing to achieve through it.

SP’s has learnt that Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s mes­sage, to also be shared in doc­u­ment form at Aero In­dia 2015, will be summed up in five broad points: First, that In­dia in­tends to be the port of call for de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing. Sec­ond, that it is not only a vast cus­tomer for lo­cal off­take, but that it in­tends for man­u­fac­tur­ing within the coun­try to be ex­ported to other cus­tomers across the world. Third, that pro­ce­dures and pro­cesses for industrial li­cens­ing and in­vest­ment con­trol are be­ing speed­ily ra­tio­nalised to make In­dia one of the friendli­est coun­tries for industrial in­vest­ment, in­clud­ing green­field ven­tures. Fourth, that the In­dian pri­vate and public sec­tors are primed and ready for an ag­gres­sive phase of joint devel­op­ment and co-pro­duc­tion un­der the clauses of the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure and other reg­u­la­tions. Fi­nally, the pitch will be that lo­cal skillsets, re­sources, economies of scale and In­dia’s own rep­u­ta­tion as a ro­bust, re­li­able and rep­utable democ­racy make it a de­pend­able ally in the field of man­u­fac­tur­ing part­ner­ships. The mes­sage is all set to be a pow­er­ful one.

In many ways, the Modi Gov­ern­ment has al­ready demon­strated that it means busi­ness. As Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) of­fi­cial said, “In or­der to give a boost to indi­geni­sa­tion, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) re­cently de­cided that all the 384 light-util­ity he­li­cop- ters needed by the Army and Air Force to re­place the ex­ist­ing Chee­tah/ Chetak fleets will be made in In­dia with for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tion. And in or­der to give a boost to pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in de­fence pro­duc­tion, the gov­ern­ment de­cided to re­place the present fleet of 56 Avro trans­port of IAF by re­serv­ing the project for the pri­vate sec­tor only.” The mes­sage in th­ese de­ci­sions hasn’t been missed by in­dus­try, which sees enor­mous po­ten­tial for busi­ness from th­ese de­ci­sions, even ac­count­ing for the dam­age late de­ci­sions have clearly had on In­dia’s rep­u­ta­tion as a whim­si­cal pro­curer of ar­ma­ments.

Prime Min­is­ter Modi, who hand­picked Manohar Par­rikar to be his De­fence Min­is­ter, took the de­ci­sion keep­ing in mind that a tech­no­crat with industrial and busi­ness acu­men will be cru­cial to driv­ing the ‘Make in In­dia’ cam­paign, and that po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and strate­gic guid­ance will re­quire ag­gres­sive fol­low-up on the ground, some­thing that Min­is­ter Par­rikar has been trusted with. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jait­ley, who spent only a few months as De­fence Min­is­ter in a dual role, will also be closely in­volved with the ini­tia­tive. Prime Min­is­ter Modi demon­strated the im­por­tance of the MoD by al­low­ing a part-time Min­is­ter while a suit­able can­di­date for the full-time role pre­sented him­self. The trio of Modi-Jait­ley-Par­rikar will be key to push­ing the ‘Make in In­dia’ con­cept in de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The ma­te­rial pub­lished by the ‘Make in In­dia’ cam­paign of­fice has made an am­bi­tious, but re­al­is­tic pitch: that In­dia is ei­ther al­ready or close to be­ing a po­ten­tial hub for the man­u­fac­ture of ad­vanced sys­tems and plat­forms, in­clud­ing fighter jets, he­li­copters, war­ships, battle tanks and sub­marines. But the more im­por­tant facet of the cam­paign will be elec­tronic sys­tems, high-per­for­mance sen­sors and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment, strate­gic soft­ware and code, in ad­di­tion to crit­i­cal sub­sys­tems and high en­durance com­po­nents. Strides have been made in com­po­nent or part man­u­fac­ture, but the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion is to make de­fence com­po­nent and sub­sys­tem man­u­fac­ture a suc­cess story like the au­to­mo­tive an­cil­lary and com­po­nent story in In­dia start­ing in the new mil­len­nium.

The gov­ern­ment has also demon­strated that it is will­ing to move swiftly on key de­ci­sions and has pledged that it won’t let po­lit­i­cal com­pul­sions play tru­ant to strate­gic ob­jec­tives or mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness im­per­a­tives. That re­mains a tough call in a coun­try where most de­fence busi­ness has been politi­cised, though the cur­rent gov­ern­ment through a demon­strated in­ten­tion to link eco­nomic progress and de­fence pre­pared­ness, ap­pears to at least be try­ing to move things to the next level. The ques­tion is whether all el­e­ments in an enor­mously am­bi­tious and com­plex cam­paign will come to­gether like the Prime Min­is­ter’s troika hopes it will. The cam­paign thrust will draw from the PMO’s in­flu­ence in the ar­eas of not just de­fence, but ex­ter­nal af­fairs, fi­nance, sig­nif­i­cantly com­merce and other ar­eas. Sources say the eco­nomics of de­fence and the ‘Make in In­dia’ cam­paign for de­fence are ar­eas that all con­cerned min­is­ters have been specif­i­cally briefed in de­tail by PMO teams. In other words, it’s all sys­tems go.

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