Large-scale dependence on foreign sources unacceptable, says A.K. Antony

Declaring overdependence on imports in defence “unacceptable,” the Centre on Thursday unveiled India's first-ever policy aimed at achieving self-reliance in design, development and production of defence equipment, weapons systems and platforms.

“While self-reliance is still a distant dream, over the years we have allowed imports for urgent requirements… large-scale dependence on foreign sources is unacceptable to a country like India…we don't conceive zero imports but have to substantially reduce them for economic reasons and based on past experience for strategic reasons…,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said after releasing the policy and details of the 2011 Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).

The policy also aims at creating for private industries, particularly small and medium enterprises, conditions conducive to play an active role in the endeavour while seeking to broaden the defence research and development base.

For the armed forces, India procures nearly 70 per cent of the requirements through imports, and according to industry estimates, it will spend up to $50 billion on defence procurement over the next five years.

“Cause for anxiety”

Mr. Antony said the highly volatile scenario around India was a cause for anxiety, and the country had to not only strengthen but also protect its economic and security needs. This led to the government embarking on the programme to modernise the armed services.

As for the DPP, preference will be given to indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment. Only if the Indian industry is unable to make and deliver the equipment as per specifications within the specified time frame will procurement be made from foreign sources.

The time taken for procurement and delivery from foreign sources vis-à-vis the time required for making the equipment in the country, along with the urgency and criticality of the requirement, will be examined as per the DPP before deciding to proceed with procurement from foreign sources.

Sub-systems that are not economically viable or practical to be made within India may be imported, ensuring their availability at all times. However, as far as possible, the design and integration of the platforms and systems will be undertaken within the country.

The government will endeavour to build a robust indigenous defence industrial base encouraging greater involvement of the private sector.

The policy was prepared after wide consultations with the tri-services, the Coast Guard, the Integrated Defence Staff, the DRDO and Indian industry associations. Mr. Antony promised to review the production policy every year, as he would the DPP.

Welcoming the DPP announcement, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Salil Bhandari said it would herald an “era of unprecedented defence industrial growth in the country.”

Confederation of Indian Industry Deputy Director-General Gurpal Singh appreciated the initiative and hoped that an implementation road map with benchmarks would be announced soon.

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