Money Over Matter | In Bureaucratic Maze

Strategic Partnership scheme is going the RUR way

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

With the swearing in of the Narendra Modi government in 2014, mission ‘Make in India’ became the cornerstone of the nation-building initiative. It was a highly overdue clarion call and a key statement of intent. As mere reiteration of intent produces no results by itself, an enabling environment had to be created and industrial sectors prioritised. Defence manufacturing was rightly identified as one of the key sectors.

However, to achieve the objectives of ‘Make in India’, a need was felt to realign the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The ministry of defence (MoD) constituted an expert committee under Dhirendra Singh in May 2015 to review DPP and evolve the necessary policy framework for the purpose. The committee was also tasked to suggest amendments to remove bottlenecks in the procurement process and simplify/ rationalise various aspects of the acquisition procedure.

The Dhirendra Singh Committee, inter alia, came to the conclusion that ‘vibrant defence industrial base must necessarily include the private industry’ and suggested forging of long-term partnership with the private sector. It went on to stress that fostering a constructive, long-term partnership was not just an economic option but a strategic imperative to minimise dependence on foreign vendors. To harness maximum potential of the private industry, the committee advocated adoption of three types of well-defined partnership models — strategic, development and competitive — the key criteria being strategic needs, quality criticality and cost competitiveness.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at FICCI’s 90th Annual General Meeting

As the suggestion of forging strategic partnership with the private sector has the potential of being a game-changer, it has evoked significant interest amongst various stakeholders. As expected, their response has been highly subjective. Whereas the environment as a whole has welcomed the proposal, the public sector is up in arms against it.

Strategic Partnership Scheme

The scheme aims to progressively build indigenous capabilities, capacities and infra-structure in the private sector (over and above those existing in the public sector) to design, develop and manufacture complex weapon systems for the future needs of the armed forces.

The primary focus of the scheme is to support sustainability and incremental improvements in the capability of platforms through technology insertions over their lifetimes. The Dhirendra Singh Committee identified six broad segments for the purpose – aircraft (fighter, transport and helicopters); warships of stated displacements, submarines and their major systems; armoured fighting vehicles; complex weapon systems that rely on guidance; C4ISTR (command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance); and critical materials.

MoD accepted the recommendation and constituted a task force under V.K. Aatre to evolve the selection criteria. Concurrently, with a view to get all stakeholders on board before finalising the modalities, MoD constituted five industry-led sub-groups and sought their suggestions. The sub-groups had representatives of both the Aatre Committee and MoD.

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