Wednesday, May 29, 2024

India’s Defence Self-Reliance Initiative Makes Strides, But Immediate Needs Remain A Challenge

By Staff Correspondent

India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative has made significant progress in the defence sector, as disclosed by the Indian government recently. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully achieved defence indigenisation primarily in missile technology. Furthermore, under Aatmanirbhar Bharat’s Positive Indigenisation List (PIL), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has removed 3,700 items from the import list and sourced them from the domestic industry.

The Indian government has also allocated nearly ₹500 crores between 2021 and 2026 to the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX), which aims to promote innovation in the aerospace and defence industry by encouraging the involvement of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), startups, Research and Development (R&D) institutes, individual entrepreneurs, and academia.

The Department for Defence Production (DDP) has launched the Supporting Pole-vaulting in R&D through IDEX (SPRINT) initiative to bolster technological advancements. This initiative encourages technology development in the space and naval domains through 75 challenges for young technologists, startups, and private companies.

Moreover, the Indian Navy has inked a deal with Mumbai-based Sagar Defence Engineering to acquire armed autonomous boat swarms. At the same time, Mission DefSpace, launched under the principal scientific advisor to the Government of India (GoI), seeks to make India self-reliant in defence technologies related to the space domain.

Although India has made progress in reducing its dependence on defence imports, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data shows a decline of only 11% between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022. However, SIPRI still ranks India as the largest defence importer globally, indicating a need for more effort to establish self-reliance in defence hardware.

“While Aatmanirbhar Bharat has been beneficial, India’s operational readiness cannot be compromised, considering the country’s military threats from China and Pakistan. As such, defence imports will continue to make up a significant portion of India’s defence basket,” strategic affairs analyst Major General VK Madhok (r) told IADB.

Furthermore, the stringent qualitative requirements (QRs) of the Indian armed services pose a challenge in meeting the requirements of indigenous vendors. Therefore, “the government must overcome industry limitations, requiring a combination of governmental investments, regulatory standards, involvement of academic institutions, and Indian Inc to meet the needs of the armed services,” Maj Gen. Madhok added.

Leading analysts told IADB that India’s long-term challenge is to ensure deep and sustained investments in defence R&D and a defence industrial ecosystem that can serve the needs of the Indian military. Establishing economies of scale that increase productivity and quality while reducing costs is vital for a dynamic, efficient, and adaptable Indian defence industry.

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