This year, India saw a convergence of multiple security threats, economic, military and health-related. A pandemic triggered an economic crisis and a military deployment by China triggered anxiety on the country’s northern borders. But, as they say, sometimes it takes a crisis to kickstart reform, especially in the defence sector.
In May, the ministry of defence (MoD) rolled out some of its biggest policy incentives to boost indigenous defence manufacturing. The biggest post-Independence reforms announced over the past year include the appointment of a new chief of defence staff (CDS), a decision to corporatise the 40 defence ordnance factories and banning certain defence imports. These will help India address the twin challenges of modernising its ageing military hardware and indigenising its military to achieve self-sufficiency.
The first India Today Defence Summit, held virtually on November 21, brought key stakeholders on board to discuss the MoD’s indigenisation drive. There was plenty of optimism about the current round of defence reforms which has set clear objectives and deliverables. It was heartening to see government officials speak of the public and private sector in the same breath, marking a huge change in attitude. There are, of course, concerns over the long road ahead, the yawning gap between technology and indigenous capacity and the slow pace of realisation between an intention and an order. The summit addressed these issues and many others.
THE MoD’S VISION FOR ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT
The defence ministry has, for the first time ever, set a goal of a $25 billion or Rs 1.75 lakh crore turnover in defence manufacturing in the next five years. This includes an export target of $5 billion or