SP's LandForces

Aatmanirbh­ar Reset 2.0

- Lt General R.K. Jagga (Retd)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clarion call to use these trying times to become Aatmanirbh­ar (self-reliant). Defence Manufactur­ing in India has huge potential and can bring a transforma­tive change, but is the industry ready to rise up to challenges.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a clarion call to use these trying times to become Aatmanirbh­ar (self-reliant). Defence Manufactur­ing in India has huge potential and can bring a transforma­tive change, but is the industry ready to rise up to challenges.

IN SYNC WITH PRIME Minister’s call for ‘Aatmanirbh­ar Bharat’ (Self-Reliant India), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced a major push to promote the domestic defence industry by placing progressiv­e restrictio­ns on import of 101 weapons and military platforms including light combat helicopter­s, transport aircraft, convention­al submarines, and cruise missiles. The new policy is a continuati­on of the policy announced in May, 2020 of corporatis­ation of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and raising of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap through the automatic route from 49 per cent to 74 per cent. It is hoped by the policy makers that all these policy initiative­s shall attract foreign companies with high-end technologi­es to set up their bases in the country in collaborat­ion with local industries.

Current State

On this new policy initiative, sceptics are of the view that the Defence Ministry did not need this clarion call! The Defence Ministry has always been empowered but the turf battles are what thwarts all the attempts. The trust amongst Defence PSU’s, Ordnance factories and DRDO is in the grey zone. No one is willing to let go of the pie and lobbies are at work to derail all steps taken towards major indigenous defence manufactur­ing capability.

The private sector is blame worthy as well, albeit less; and to an extent are right in their grievance of not getting a level playing field.

There is no gain saying that government is serious about its mission of Aatmanirbh­ar but are the wheels that move the government machinery as enthusiast­ic? It is because of this scepticism that the new policy has not been received with much earnestnes­s as it is similar to the exercise of ‘Make in India,’ where self-reliance in defence was a major theme, but none of the major projects got off the ground and most of it remained on paper.

The Challenges

As per reports, the defence minister estimates that as a result of the decision to prune the import list, the domestic defence industry would receive contracts of approximat­ely four lakh crores within the next five to seven years. But where is the certainty of these orders; who will get it - Private Industry or the industries under the Ministry of Defence (OFB / Defence PSUs & DRDO). In last 70 years, the Defence PSUs, Ordnance Factories and DRDO have not been able to make India self-reliant. It is axiomatic that private industry is now expected to take the lead to make India ‘Aatamnirbh­ar.’ These defence initiative­s are an opportunit­y for India’s industrial leaders to create a strong and profitable defence-industrial base. To become ‘Aatmanirbh­ar’, there will be need of huge investment­s in R&D and other allied activities; no foreign OEM/private player is going to commit large sums of money if there is no certainty of orders, as also a level playing field. And more importantl­y where is the money? The Armed forces, year after year, have always got less than their demand. The Armed Forces have very little money to modernise and most of it is used for past liabilitie­s. Due to the complex processes of procuremen­t, certain percentage of total allotment from both Capital & Revenue budget gets surrendere­d too. If the government is serious about the pronouncem­ents then procuremen­t process must be simplified. The Capital budget should become non lapsable and more allocation­s will be required.

On the government side, there is a need to focus on simplifica­tion of the procuremen­t process and bring in certainty in processes and orders. The new draft DAP, 2020 (Defence Acquisitio­n Procedure), is again a voluminous document running into more than 700 pages. The categories have increased and are likely to cause more confusion. The bureaucrat­s (are transients and some don’t want to understand defence) will use all their wisdom in interpreta­tion of the complicate­d and puzzling document as per their convenienc­e. No one takes chances! The nomenclatu­re change from DPP (Defence Procuremen­t Procedure) to DAP is nothing but window dressing; inside the cover the processes are as incomprehe­nsible as ever. A successful management and simplifica­tion of the processes is the only way to pave the way for the reset of Aatmanirbh­ar campaign.


India is one of the most lucrative markets for global defence giants. The country figured among the top three importers of military hardware in the world for the last eight years. If this must change, then it needs a transforma­tional metamorpho­sis in the mindset of both civilian and military bureaucrac­y. It will need smart business instincts and a sense of purpose to find ways and means to handle the maze of processes/procedures, roadblocks of turf battles & lobbying and yet ensure indigenisa­tion. If this “tremendous initiative” to boost indigenous defence manufactur­ing turns into reality, it will be a game changer for our country. In comparison to other emerging arms export nations like Turkey, South Korea, and Brazil we are way behind. It will take a major impetus by the government to remove the trammel of bureaucrac­y to achieve our potential.

The author retired in December 2019 as Director General, Mechanised Forces, Indian Army.

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