Opportunity, obscurity, obstacles and Indian Defence Sector

by Jeremy

A file photo shows Indian Army jawans standing in a formation after disembarking from a military transport plane at a forward airbase in the Ladakh region. (Reuters)


By Ajay Bedi

Indian Defence Sector holds overwhelming opportunities for the world’s leading defense manufacturing companies. It promises such a vast market that is still evolving and taking baby steps toward autonomy. Some achievements are commendable e.g. manufacturing and successful testing of Light Combat Aircraft `TEJAS’. But even after achieving this feat, this sector is considered to be at a nascent stage, which is evident from export-import data and defence industry statistics globally. We have some of the PSUs which came into existence in the late 50s or earlier 60s. The details are as follows:

Though we are manufacturing defense items through “Public Sector Units-PSU’s” like
  • · HAL (1940 inception but full functioning started in 1964, amalgamation),
  • BEL (!954- Production started in 1956),
  • NAL (1959 in Delhi Under CSIR moved to Bangalore in 1960),
  • DRDO was established in 1958 by amalgamating the Defence Science Organisation and some of the technical development establishments
  • The first Indian ordnance factory can trace its origins back to the year 1712 when the Dutch Ostend Company established a GunPowder Factory in Ichhapur.
  • Started as Founded as the Scandia Shipyard in 1941, after Nationalisation in 1961, it is known as Hindustan Shipyard Limited.
  • Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited.

Even after five decades of existence (After Independence), these agencies have not provided us with a product that could compete internationally. We did have some exciting moments in the past when Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) exported six Helicopters to Ecuador. But the glory did not last for long as these helicopters did not perform well and the whole issue was embroiled in litigation. We propose exporting the “BrahMos Missiles” to our neighbors in South East Asia, Gulf Region, and Latin American countries. We have all these agencies which are brought into existence with a motto of self-reliance. However, that motto or goal still seems to be a farfetched dream, despite having the backing of respective governments/regimes. It is intriguing to understand why we failed to achieve the self-reliant stature.

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