NDA’s Achieve­ments in De­fence Sec­tor in Three Years

In­dia adopted the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion of de­fence ac­qui­si­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, struc­tures and pro­ce­dures in 2002


THE MODI GOV­ERN­MENT WHICH com­pletes three years on May 26, 2017, is plan­ning to cel­e­brate their achieve­ments by putting out a re­port card giv­ing out statis­tics of their achieve­ments in the last three years of Na­tional Demo­cratic Alli- ance’s (NDA) gov­er­nance. This anal­y­sis aims to highlight some of the im­por­tant steps taken by the gov­ern­ment while not­ing the chal­lenges fac­ing us in the de­fence sec­tor and is by no means a com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age of the sub­ject.

De­fence Sec­tor Re­forms: Back­drop

In­dia’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party won a land­mark vic­tory in the coun­try’s gen­eral elec­tions. But Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in­her­ited from the out­go­ing United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance (UPA) gov­ern­ment a de­fence min­istry be­sieged by scan­dal and Armed Forces des­per­ately short of crit­i­cal as­sets. The sit­u­a­tion was such that as per me­dia re­ports even am­mu­ni­tion of tanks and ar­tillery guns was in short

sup­ply af­fect­ing train­ing of per­son­nel and op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness of units and for­ma­tions for war.

A few years prior to the present NDA regime taking over the reins of the gov­ern­ment, the coun­try wit­nessed var­i­ous scan­dals such as the Ord­nance Fac­tory Board scam, Ta­tra-BEML mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle pro­cure­ment, VVIP chop­pers (Agus­taWest­land He­li­copters) and the the Rolls-Royce-HAL kick­back scan­dal. As a re­sult, nine OEMs in­clud­ing four ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies were black­listed by the gov­ern­ment. Since then through var­i­ous pro­cure­ments in­clud­ing im­port of some cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion and mis­siles and stream­lin­ing the indige­nous man­u­fac­ture of cer­tain cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion, the sit­u­a­tion has been sta­bilised.

As far back as June 2014 ac­cord­ing to the Strate­gic De­fence In­tel­li­gence re­port The Fu­ture of the In­dian De­fence In­dus­try – Mar­ket At­trac­tive­ness, Com­pet­i­tive Land­scape and Fore­casts to 2019, the mar­ket was ex­pected to grow at a CAGR of 9.83 per cent dur­ing the pe­riod 2015-19 with a cu­mu­la­tive spend­ing of $241.2 bil­lion. In­dia was ex­pected to present am­ple busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for OEMs in the ar­eas of multi-role air­craft, train­ing air­craft, in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cles (IFVs), frigates, bal­lis­tic mis­siles, sub­marines, am­mu­ni­tion, air de­fence sys­tems, mil­i­tary in­fra­struc­ture and mil­i­tary ro­tor­craft among many oth­ers.

One can say with cer­tainty that while there have been many ideas and plans that have been mooted and deals put into the pipe­line cov­er­ing all three ser­vices, how­ever on the ground the sit­u­a­tion re­mains un­changed. While many new sys­tems have been ear­marked for pro­cure­ment in ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory but by the time they are in­ducted into the com­bat units an­other five to 10 years time will elapse.

De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure 2016

In­dia adopted the cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion of de­fence ac­qui­si­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion, struc­tures and pro­ce­dures in 2002. Dur­ing the last 13 years, In­dia has not been able to sign a single ma­jor de­fence contract in an open com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment un­der the pro­vi­sions of the much trum­peted de­fence pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dure (DPP). De­spite the fact that DPP has been sub­jected to six ma­jor re­views/re­vi­sions, no im­prove­ment has been dis­cernible.

An expert com­mit­tee un­der Dhiren­dra Singh was con­sti­tuted on May 1, 2015. The Com­mit­tee was tasked to evolve a pol­icy frame­work to fa­cil­i­tate ‘Make in In­dia’ in de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing and align the pol­icy evolved with DPP-2013; and to sug­gest the req­ui­site amend­ments in DPP2013. DPP-2016 was thus for­mu­lated with the ex­pe­ri­ence gained by the gov­ern­ment in the de­fence pro­cure­ment process and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Dhiren­dra Singh Com­mit­tee. It came into ef­fect from April 2016.

Most of the deals signed re­cently such as the 145, M777 155mm how­itzers, Kamov Ka-226 he­li­copters, Apache (at­tack he­li­copters) AH ID, and Air­bus C295 trans­port air­craft, are un­der the cat­e­gory ‘Buy and Make’ which means ini­tial pro­cure­ment of lim­ited quan­tity in fully formed state, fol­lowed by indige­nous pro­duc­tion through Trans­fer of Tech­nol­ogy (ToT). How­ever none of these deals have fruc­ti­fied on the ground so far and the time frame for re­al­i­sa­tion of equip­ment would vary from 5 to 10 years once the ini­tial de­liv­er­ies start. An ex­am­ple can be taken of the M777 155mm how­itzer. Two guns have reached In­dia which would be used by the Army for mak­ing range ta­bles with indige­nous am­mu­ni­tion. The in­duc­tion will com­mence from March 2019 on­wards. In­duc­tion sched­ule in­cludes five guns per month from March on­wards till all 145 are in­ducted by June 2021.

Not­with­stand­ing the de­lays that have oc­curred dur­ing the UPA regime what is heart­en­ing is that the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) has started work­ing and re­act­ing to the Ser­vices re­quire­ments end­ing the risk averse Antony era lethargy. The func­tion­ing of the De­fence Min­istry has been scam free so far.

Strate­gic Part­ner­ship with In­dian In­dus­try

Break­ing new ground, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) un­der the Chair­man­ship of the De­fence Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley, on May 20, 2017, fi­nalised the broad con­tours of a pol­icy aimed at en­gag­ing the In­dian pri­vate sec­tor in the man­u­fac­ture of high-tech de­fence equip­ment in In­dia. The pol­icy, which was de­vel­oped through ex­ten­sive stake­holder con­sul­ta­tions with In­dian in­dus­try, en­vis­ages the es­tab­lish­ment of long-term strate­gic part­ner­ships with qual­i­fied In­dian in­dus­try ma­jors through a trans­par­ent and com­pet­i­tive process wherein the In­dian in­dus­try part­ners would tie up with global OEMs to seek tech­nol­ogy trans­fers and man­u­fac­tur­ing know-how to set up do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing in­fra­struc­ture and sup­ply chains. The pol­icy will give a boost to the ‘Make in In­dia’ pol­icy in the De­fence sec­tor and set In­dian in­dus­try on the path to ac­quir­ing cut­ting-edge ca­pa­bil­i­ties which will con­trib­ute to the build­ing of self-re­liance in the vi­tal na­tional se­cu­rity sec­tor. The pol­icy is ex­pected to be im­ple­mented in a few se­lected seg­ments to be­gin with, namely, fighter air­craft, sub­marines and ar­moured ve­hi­cles. In fu­ture, ad­di­tional seg­ments may be added. Ap­pro­pri­ate in­sti­tu­tional mech­a­nisms will be set in place to im­ple­ment the pol­icy.

One Rank One Pen­sion (OROP)

The gov­ern­ment has ful­filled its prom­ise to im­ple­ment the long-pend­ing OROP scheme for over 21 lakh vet­er­ans. The present scheme, how­ever, does not en­tirely ful­fill the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Koshi­yari Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee which had de­fined OROP as ‘One Rank One Pen­sion’ (OROP) im­plies that uni­form pen­sion be paid to the Armed Forces Per­son­nel re­tir­ing in the same rank with the same length of ser­vice ir­re­spec­tive of their date of re­tire­ment and any fu­ture en­hance­ment in the rates of pen­sion to be au­to­mat­i­cally passed on to the past pen­sion­ers. Hence dis­gruntle­ment still re­mains and the gov­ern­ment will have to truth­fully and sin­cerely look into the is­sue of ‘uni­form pen­sions’ be­tween the old and the new which has not been achieved de­spite the fact that the NDA Gov­ern­ment has done more in this field than any other gov­ern­ment in the past.

Chief of De­fence Staff/Per­ma­nent Chair­man COSC

The CDS is vi­tal not only for pro­vid­ing single point mil­i­tary ad­vise to the Cab­i­net but also to usher in syn­ergy ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally be­tween the three Ser­vices which is not sat­is­fac­tory at the mo­ment. More­over in an era of scarce re­sources he will have to en­sure ju­di­cious al­lo­ca­tion and util­i­sa­tion of de­fence bud­gets and pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of pro­cure­ments ac­cord­ing to threats and chal­lenges fac­ing the coun­try. He would also en­sure or­gan­i­sa­tional re­form to achieve closer joint­man­ship and in­te­gra­tion of the three ser­vices and to trans­form the three Ser­vices into net­work­cen­tric war­fare (NCW) force ca­pa­ble of un­der­tak­ing op­er­a­tions in the digi­tised bat­tle­field of the fu­ture. This re­form is await­ing the po­lit­i­cal nod.

The de­fence and se­cu­rity re­quire­ments, in light of the cur­rent and fu­ture threats and chal­lenges, need to be an­a­lysed very care­fully by the gov­ern­ment taking the help de­fence experts in the field. The work re­quired to be un­der­taken in this field is so enor­mous that de­lays would be dis­as­trous for na­tional se­cu­rity.

Am­mu­ni­tion and Spares

The be­lea­guered armed forces were em­pow­ered to pro­cure emer­gency stocks of am­mu­ni­tion and spares to en­sure that they could un­der­take at least 10 days of in­tense fight­ing if op­er­a­tions had to be un­der­taken with our po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries at short no­tice though the ex­ist­ing pol­icy lays down 30:30 con­cept which re­quires the na­tion to have am­mu­ni­tion stocks equiv­a­lent to 30 days in­tense rates and 30 days nor­mal rates of ex­pen­di­ture.

Crit­i­cal De­fi­cien­cies in Mod­ern Equip­ment

Each ser­vice has a rather long list of ob­so­les­cent weapon sys­tems which need re­place­ment ur­gently to re­tain the abil­ity to fight mod­ern wars in the fu­ture, es­pe­cially in our

case as we need to equip our­selves for fac­ing two op­po­nents on two widely sep­a­rated fronts against China in the North and East and Pak­istan in the West.

In the re­cent times the gov­ern­ment has to their credit has­tened the process of ac­quir­ing some of the crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies of the three ser­vices. How­ever they will fruc­tify over the next 5 to 10 years. These in­clude gov­ern­ment to gov­ern­ment deals like the ones for 36 Rafale fight­ers from France, 145 M777 ul­tra-light how­itzers, and 22 Apache at­tack and 15 Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters from the US. Contract ne­go­ti­a­tions are also on for procur­ing 56, Air­bus C295 trans­port air­craft to re­place the Avro fleet. The air­craft will be made in In­dia by the Tata group and the re­quire­ments may go up due the needs of the Coast Guard and the DRDO who are likely to con­fig­ure the plat­form for multi mis­sion mar­itime roles.

In the In­dian Army there is an ur­gent need to in­duct new as­sault ri­fles with night fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, carbines, sniper ri­fles, fourth gen­er­a­tion anti-tank guided mis­siles, air de­fence guns and mis­siles; night fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity for tanks and in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cles, about 3,000 as­sorted ar­tillery pieces of 155mm cal­i­bre; spe­cialised equip­ment for Spe­cial Forces Op­er­a­tions; and last but not the least about 200 light he­li­copters for ob­ser­va­tion, re­con­nais­sance and sur­veil­lance, and li­ai­son mis­sions.

The In­dian Navy ur­gently re­quires ad­di­tional sub­marines, anti-sub­ma­rine he­li­copters and he­li­copters for search and res­cue, ob­ser­va­tion and re­con­nais­sance and li­ai­son. The navy also re­quires two more air­craft car­ri­ers for its op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties on the western and east­ern sea board thus to­tal­ing the re­quire­ment of air­craft car­ri­ers to three.

The In­dian Air Force (IAF) re­quires to ur­gently build up its fighter strength. The orig­i­nal re­quire­ment for Rafale fight­ers was pegged at 126. How­ever, the present gov­ern­ment de­cided to in­duct 36 fighter air­craft at the ear­li­est as the squadron strength of the IAF was fall­ing be­low the ac­cept­able lim­its. The pro­duc­tion of Te­jas (light com­bat air­craft), which is to makeup the fighter strength of the IAF, is still not at the de­sired 16 planes-per-an­num mark and it will take at least three to four years for new for­eign col­lab­o­rated jets to fruc­tify. Former De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar, ad­dress­ing me­dia per­sons at the 11th Aero In­dia in Fe­bru­ary 2017, said: “Talks for single-en­gine and twin-en­gine fighter jets are in ad­vanced stages and we want to get them done in dur­ing cur­rent cal­en­dar year (2017)”. He listed the needs as “300 to 400 fight­ers”. On ramp­ing up pro­duc­tion of the Te­jas, Par­rikar said: “We are putting in a sec­ond line at a cost of ₹ 1,359 crore. Work will start in three months and pro­duc­tion in two years.”

Full-time Rak­sha Mantri

Not hav­ing a full-time Rak­sha Mantri at a time when the nexus be­tween China and Pak­istan stands fully es­tab­lished and is im­pact­ing on In­dia’s se­cu­rity sce­nario within and at the bor­ders does not au­gur well for the coun­try. Arun Jait­ley, the cur­rent De­fence Min­is­ter, has held dual charge for al­most six months in 2014, when the fi­nance min­istry was his first pri­or­ity. Manohar Par­rikar took over the charge for a lit­tle over two years, and af­ter fully un­der­stand­ing the func­tion­al­ity of the De­fence Min­istry, he put the pro­cure­ment process on rails. How­ever with his re­turn­ing to Goa as Chief Min­is­ter, the un­cer­tainty con­tin­ues. Arun Jait­ley who is dual-hat­ted once again can­not be ex­pected to han­dle two vi­tal min­istries both of which re­quire full­time at­ten­tion of its Min­is­ter.


The NDA gov­ern­ment has cer­tainly brought in more dy­namism in the de­fence sec­tor with faster de­ci­sion mak­ing, but this ad­van­tage will be lost if we al­low the sit­u­a­tion to drift as was the case dur­ing the UPA regime. The de­fence and se­cu­rity re­quire­ments, in light of the cur­rent and fu­ture threats and chal­lenges, need to be an­a­lysed very care­fully by the gov­ern­ment taking the help de­fence experts in the field. The work re­quired to be un­der­taken in this field is so enor­mous that de­lays would be dis­as­trous for na­tional se­cu­rity.

Some of the tasks that need to be com­pleted ex­pe­di­tiously are: prag­matic and ad­e­quate al­lo­ca­tion of de­fence Bud­get to en­sure the mak­ing up of crit­i­cal de­fi­cien­cies in each Ser­vice at the ear­li­est, mod­ernising the ob­so­lete equip­ment of all three Ser­vices, estab­lish­ing the post of the CDS/ Per­ma­nent Chair­man COSC, prun­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tions of each ser­vice to weed out the non es­sen­tials thus util­is­ing the bud­get to achieve the re­quired com­bat edge over the ad­ver­saries, and en­sur­ing joint­ness and in­te­gra­tion to im­prove our war wag­ing po­ten­tial. The tasks in­volved place an oner­ous re­spon­si­bil­ity on the shoul­ders of the De­fence Min­is­ter and hence it is es­sen­tial that a full time De­fence Min­is­ter is nom­i­nated at the ear­li­est.


Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi pay­ing homage at the Amar Jawan Jy­oti, In­dia Gate, on the oc­ca­sion of the 68th Repub­lic Day Pa­rade 2017, in New Delhi

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