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Department of Defence Production

By 2015 India, long one of the worlds biggest arms importers, wanted to expand its own weapons industry and become a supplier to other nations. Its a move the United States supports for economic and strategic reasons. Industry analysts believe that, despite some positive signs, Indias reliance on arms imports was unlikely to change anytime soon.

India imports nearly 60 percent of its defense needs. Over the past five years since 2010, India was the worlds biggest arms importer, accounting for 15 percent of the worlds weapon imports, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Modi is pushing for a Made in India policy whereby the country would become more self-sufficient in arms production. In 2014, in a speech aboard Indias largest warship, the Soviet-era INS Vikramaditya, Modi said the country should also look toward exporting weapons. The small countries should feel secure that they have India-produced defense equipment, Modi said.

The question some are asking is whether Indias defense industry can develop to a level where its exports can counter those of China and the political weight that comes with it. Some foreign policy experts believe that, despite U.S. interest in helping the Indian defense industry grow, a weak Indian defense industry makes this unlikely.

The Department of Defence Production was set up in 1962, in the aftermath of the war with China, to create an indigenous defence production base which is self-reliant and self-sufficient. Indigenisation, particularly of armaments, proceeded apace in 1963. In November, 1965, Department of Defence Supplies was created to forge linkages between the civil industries and defence production units. The two departments were merged in December, 1984 to form the Department of Defence Production and Supplies.

Since 1962, 16 new ordnance factories have been set up and their capacities have been augmented and modernised selectively keeping in mind the emerging requirements of the Armed Forces. Presently, 39 Ordnance Factories and 8 Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) are engaged in the task of manufacture of equipment and stores for Defence Services. In addition, capacities of civil sectors are also utilised for the purpose.

India maintains an extensive defense industrial base principally owned by the government. At independence, industrialization was viewed to be the engine of growth and jobs for the rest of the economy, and since then the government has owned a large fraction of the industries and also tightly regulated the private sector. India believed that public ownership was necessary to insure developments that would benefit the entire country. India decided early that the defense industries would be owned by the public sector, and the Indian penchant to establish a "socialist pattern of society" still dominates the defense industrial base.

India's defense industrial capacity lies in three main classes of enterprises: the Ordnance Factories (OF), the Defense Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), and, to a much lesser extent, selected civilian public and private sector manufacturing establishments. The OFs, founded in 1801, are departmentally run government units. There are 39 OFs, grouped into five areas based on the type of armaments they produce: Ammunition and Explosives, Weapons, Vehicles and Equipment, Armoured Vehicles, and Ordnance Equipment. There are eight publicy-owned DPSUs: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited; Bharat Electronics; Bharat Earth Movers; Mazagon Dock Ltd; Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd; Boa Shipyard Ltd; Bharat Dynamics Ltd; and Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd. Both the OFs and the DPSU's are trying to move toward greater self-reliance. The government is also trying to promote greater civil sector participation in the armament process.

The indigenisation of defence equipment is an ongoing process and is achieved by transfer of technology and indigenous research. Indigenisation of spares of defence equipment has been undertaken in aircraft, warships, armament, tanks, vehicles and electronic as well as engineering equipment.

While the Ordnance Factories and Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs) are manufacturing a wide range of products for the defence forces, the private sector has been involved in the supply of raw material, semi-finished products, parts and components of defence equipment. The combined value of the products of Ordnance Factories and Defence PSUs during 2000-2001 has been approximately Rs. 14000 crore as against approximately Rs. 1800 crore on import of stores (which excludes capital equipment) comprising components, spares, overhaul etc.

The Government has recently allowed private sector participation in the defence industry upto 100 per cent and with foreign direct investment permissible upto 26 per cent both subject to licensing, for manufacture of all types of defence equipment within the country. This is expected to add to the investment already made in the public sector.

The Defence industry sector has been opened for participation by Indian Private Sector upto 100 % of equity, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), component of it being permissible upto 26 %, both being subject to licensing permissions. This includes all types of defence equipment. Guidelines have been issued by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) in consultation with the Ministry of Defence regarding the modalities for consideration of applications for grant of licences. The private companies are allowed to apply either individually or by a partnership firm amongst themselves. The Chief Executive of the company/partnership will be a resident Indian. The company/partnership firm can have Foreign Direct Investment upto 26 % of the equity. Preference would be given to original equipment manufacturers or design establishments and those having a good track record of supplies. However, there would be a three years lock-in period for transfer of equity from one foreign investor to another foreign investor and such transfer would be subject to prior approval of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and the Government.

All applications from the private entrepreneurs will be considered by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion in consultation with the Ministry of Defence and the licenses would be granted by the DIPP. The licensees are required to put in place adequate safety and security procedures, which would be subject to verification by authorized Government agencies. The quality of the product will be assured by the Quality Assurance Agencies of the Ministry of Defence. The exports of manufactured items would be subject to policy and guidelines as applicable to Ordnance Factories and Defence Public Sector Undertakings.

The objective of the policy is to attract more investment in the Defence Sector and not to change the ownership of the Ordnance Factory Board and the Defence Public Sector Undertakings. These represent the core strength of Defence Industry in India and their continued growth and full utilisation of capacities would be encouraged by the Government.

Indias DRDO, Ordnance Factories (OFs) and Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) were in place in initial years after independence. Yet seven decades years later India imports around 70 per cent of its military hardware. In aviation India is nothing more than a foreign licensed-production house.

HAL and IAFs Base Repair Depots (BRDs) have mastered the art of licensed production and overhaul. Thousands of mostly British, French and Russian aircraft have been built. While production quality may have been an issue, they have served the IAF well. A large number of Indian manufacturers are assembling sub-systems for the big foreign players. But the ratio of real indigenous content versus imports has actually progressively deteriorated from 45 to 36 percent.

The Service Headquarters are often blamed for making unachievable Service Qualification Requirements (SQRs). When the SQRs are made they cater to the already proven and operational technologies; threat perception and availability with the enemy; and timelines of final delivery. Defence industry is also chary about the Armed Forces changing SQRs mid-stream. This invariably happens when the project is unduly delayed and the whole world has moved on ahead. In the end Service HQs on their own or due to circumstances are forced to compromise and dilute specifications.

HAL and other DPSUs often pitch for products well beyond their current know-how. Often they offer fully imported products with a Made in India tag. Notwithstanding, the military is nationalist in view and wants to encourage Indian products.

The DRDO and DPSUs are government controlled organisations which follow seniority based system of individual growth. The salary structure is linked to years in service and not performance. The brainy guys leave early for better pastures. No wonder over 30 per cent scientists in US space agency NASA are Indians. Accountability and answerability has been low. Small demand and huge infrastructure affects economies of scale. R&D products must translate into inductable end products.

Similarly, the Ordnance Factories are mammoth set-ups run in old dilapidated buildings with a low industrial technological base. They have not moved much forward in their product lines. They are also manufacturing personnel clothing, shoes and small field items that can more economically be outsourced to civil industry. The OFs are also mired by active trade union activity that further lowers productivity. A full scale overhaul of DPSUs and OFs is required.

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