Money Over Matter | Old Hopes Repackaged

Like its predecessor, draft DPrP-2018 offers nothing new

Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd)Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman (retd)

With a view to promote domestic production, the ministry of defence (MoD) has decided to produce an industry friendly Defence Production Policy 2018 (DPrP-2018). The draft has been made public and comments have been sought from the environment. The new policy will supersede the current policy, i.e. DPrP-2011.

In a highly disingenuous preamble to the draft policy, it has been profligately claimed that DPrP-2011 had helped increase domestic defence production significantly. It is certainly a misleading and presumptive statement, not supported by evidence. The draft policy goes on to declare that many defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and ordnance factories had emerged as significant players in the defence production ecosystem in the country.

Conceding the fact that India’s defence requirements continue to be dependent on imports, the draft policy rues that India has become one of the largest importer of defence goods and services in the world. Unfortunately, rather than undertaking dynamic steps to set the system right, MoD has once again shown lack of spine to change the status-quo. It has resorted to the time-tested bureaucratic subterfuge of repackaging an existing policy as a move forward. It would have been far more prudent to carry out a detailed review of the existing DPrP-2011 to identify weaknesses and, then, initiate steps to rectify them.

 

PM Narendra Modi and COAS General Bipin Rawat talk atop a K9 Vajra howitzer while defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman looks on

DPrP-2011 was Doomed to be a Non-starter

Before discussing the draft of the new production policy, it will be in order to determine the degree of success achieved by DPrP-2011, notwithstanding the tall claims made by MoD. Seven years is a fairly long period for a detailed appraisal.

DPrP-2011 was released by the then defence minister A.K.Antony with much fanfare at a function in New Delhi on 13 January 2011. It was asserted that the policy had been formulated with the aim of achieving maximum synergy among the armed forces, public sector, ordnance factories, Indian industry and Research and Development (R&D) institutions. DPrP-2011 stressed the need to ‘enhance the national competence in producing state-of-the-art defence equipment within the price lines and timelines that are globally competitive’. To accomplish that, it suggested exploration of all viable approaches such as formation of consortia, joint ventures and public private partnerships. It also advocated co-opting of the academia, R&D institutions and technical/scientific organisations of repute.




The policy sought ‘to create an ecosystem conducive for the private industry to take an active role, particularly for SMEs, in indigenisation and substantive self-reliance in the defence sector’. The objectives included achievement of substantive self reliance in the design, development and production of equipment/weapon systems/platforms; creation of conditions conducive for the private industry to take an active role in the endeavour; enhancement of potential of SMEs in indigenisation; and broadening of defence R&D base.

Further, it promised to give preference to indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment, resorting to imports only as a last resort. Similarly, preference was assured to the Indian industry in undertaking upgrades of defence systems/platforms/equipment. The policy declared that efforts would be made by the Department of Defence Production (DDP) to progressively identify and address any issue, which impacted, or had the potential of impacting the competitiveness of Indian defence industry in comparison to foreign companies.

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