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Report

The indigenisation of India’s defence industry

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An indigenous defence industry is a vital objective for India given its security environment and strategic objectives. India has a large and growing defence budget and a long history of defence industrial production. However, the country remains heavily reliant on defence imports, particularly for major platforms, while its own exports are extremely meagre. Although several high-level committees have been established to address the problem of defence industrial indigenisation, very few of the necessary steps have been taken. In part, this is because India faces a number of dilemmas in trying to reform its defence industry: the normal rules of market economics do not apply; ideal objectives of quality, cost, and timeframes cannot be achieved simultaneously; defence budgets remain susceptible to cuts; the nature of defence supply chains is changing; and little heed has been paid to policies to maximise technological absorption. Moreover, major stakeholders confront their own challenges: India’s powerful defence public sector faces conflicts of interest and is resistant to change; the armed services provide unrealistic qualitative requirements; the Ministry of Defence lacks specialisation; the Finance Ministry discourages long-term spending; and the political leadership lacks expertise and is reluctant to make decisions due to political perceptions. To address these diverse challenges, efforts should be made to ensure predictable long-term requirements and create a more level playing field between the public and private sectors. Further, a mechanism must be found to ensure predictable capital expenditure, in order to incentivise investment. Without such steps being taken, India will continue to struggle in its quest for defence indigenisation.

 

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