Making high tech weapons in India gets tougher; foreign deals face hiccups


Making high tech weapons in India gets tougher; foreign deals face hiccups
Will India ever build a stealth fighter like the US, or even China? When will the country leave behind the tag of world’s largest importer of arms? Before such ambitions can be realised, the country’s defence production and procurement process will have to overcome various roadblocks.

The private sector in India needs to be increasingly involved in equipping the armed forces and keeping them battle ready if the country wants to wean itself off expensive military imports.

However, developments reported in the news show that efforts to ensure the same recently received a setback, while major defence deals with other countries have been facing their own share of hiccups.

Mission for Made in India weapons faces setback

Make in India in defence has received an unpleasant jolt.

Business Standard reported that the procedure, called “Make”, under which the defence ministry would reimburse the costs of Indian defence firms for designing “high technology, complex systems” has been scrapped. From now, development projects that were formerly being processed under the “Make” category will be moved to another category called “Make 2” — under which, defence firms will bear their own costs.

Industry analysts have told Business Standard that companies have absolutely no interest in paying their own development costs.

The long-delayed project to develop a Future Infantry Combat Vehicle for the Indian Army was one of the defence initiatives immediately effected.

Two-year wait before new combat jet deal is done

Procuring complex and expensive defence equipment from foreign manufacturers has not been a smooth process historically.

It could be another two years before India picks the winner of the world’s biggest combat aircraft order, a senior Boeing Co executive told news agencies. Boomberg News that Boeing is well placed in the race to supply the Indian Air Force with 110 fighter jets.

Getting a new aircraft for the Indian Air Force is crucial as India faces increased risks from neighbouring Pakistan and China.

The new tender comes after the scrapping of an order with France’s Dassault Aviation for 126 Rafale jets worth $11 billion in 2015, a process that took nearly a decade. Subsequently, India bought 36 Rafale jets separately to speed up the process.

US spoiler in India-Russia air defence deal

Time over-runs and delays aren’t the only roadblocks that can crop up in a foreign defence deal. Sometimes, geopolitics can also play spoiler.

India has conveyed to the US that notwithstanding the latter’s sanctions against Moscow, the “time-tested” Indo-Russian cooperation in the defence sector will continue, including the deal for S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems for the IAF. Sources have told news agencies that India wants its defence transactions with Russia to be insulated from the purview of a stringent American law, the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). India is likely to raise the issue with the US when the two sides meet in Washington for the 2+2 talks next month.

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