War. Ammunition. Destruction. Nuclear Weapons. Bio-chemical attack. Cyber threat.
News about any of these scares us. In the modern 21st century, everyone understands the futility of conflicts. They act as a threat to human civilization. No matter in whichever form they take place, nothing good ever arises from them. Their calamitous effect spreads across all spheres be it social, political or economic. Yet their occurrence has not vanished completely.
Each year billions of dollars are spent by nations for maintaining their defence sectors so as to prepare themselves to deal with such crises, whenever it takes place. Simultaneously, they provide both monetary and diplomatic support to the international organisations meant for ensuring a peaceful and sustainable living environment for all. Ofcourse, leaders can’t be blamed for this duality. Working on prevention rather than cure is reasonable. At the same time, making sure your country and citizens are safe from any attack is equally cardinal.
The same logic applies to India. According to a report by Statista, we are the third largest military spenders in the world. The allocation for the Defence Ministry stands at 2.1% of the nation’s entire GDP. The biggest slice of the pizza goes to them amongst all the sectors. Now, let’s see the other side of the coin. We were also the biggest arms importer between 2017-2021. It’s a well-connected, globalisation-driven world. There’s no harm in getting the hardware from some place outside. Afterall, no country is efficient in production of each and every commodity. International trade is an inevitable economic activity. Import and export of items ensure a wider range of options for the citizens. Thus, guaranteeing high standards of living for them. However, balance needs to be upheld. Defence is a sensitive matter that relates directly to the nation’s security. Hence, over-dependence on outside sources is not a wise trade strategy.
The Indian policymakers and administration had a similar realisation during the COVID19 pandemic. In 2020, with the launch of the 20 Lakh Crore AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT package, they decided to change the fate of India’s defence industry. Certain bold steps undertaken by the government include a sharp rise in the Foreign Direct Investment limit from 49% to 74% in defence. A positive indigenisation list was released that banned the import of almost 2851 defence equipments. Not only the physical weaponry, attention has been paid towards research and development in the domestic sector.The package emcompasses the dominion of evolving home-grown capabilities and new technological advancements. For the same, iDEX, Innovation for defence excellence has been launched involving startups and MSME’s to give a thrust to modernisation. To further strengthen our defence positioning, two defence industrial corridors will be created, one in Uttar Pradesh and other in Tamil Nadu. The government has also promised simplification of industrial license processing with an extended validity period.
Another aspect to our defence sector is the trade partners. Russia, currently involved in a conflict with the Eastern European nation, Ukraine, is the largest arms supplier for India. Although the Kremlin’s arms supply share has fallen drastically from 69% to 46% within the period of 2016-21, it’s still substantial enough. Therefore, to avoid defence leaning towards one side, India has decided to expand the defence ties with nations like France, US and Britain. Although India has consistently maintained a neutral stance on the matter, the self-sufficiency and expansionary map laid by the government will help avoid any knee-jerk reaction at the later stages.
However, all of this is not as easy as it appears to be. The vision has been set but the ride towards it is not a smooth one. Trial and testing is a critical factor in defence. A great amount of financial help is needed in this area so as to make domestic arms worldwide competitive both in price and quality. Up-to-date testing structures, accessibility to such test amenities, non-availability of stock components are certain hiccups the administration needs to overcome. Due to the paucity of tested ranges there is a long waiting time. This further adds to the transportation costs for the production units. Finding the right key to such blips should be the priority of the policymakers.
The motive behind the initiative is clear. Whether we’ll be able to achieve it, only time can tell.
- Statista: Top defence Importing nations
Statista. 2022. Market share of major arms’ importers 2017-2021 | Statista. [online] Available at: <https://www.statista.com/statistics/267134/share-of-individual-nations-in-the-import-of-conventional-weapons/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
(Market share of major arms’ importers 2017-2021 | Statista, 2022)
- Ministry of Defence Report
(Aatmanirbhar Bharat | Ministry of Defence, 2022)
Mod.gov.in. 2022. Aatmanirbhar Bharat | Ministry of Defence. [online] Available at: <https://www.mod.gov.in/gallery/aatmanirbhar-bharat> [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Observer Research Foundation: India’s Defence Trade Partners
2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/the-evolving-landscape-of-indias-arms-trade/> [Accessed 16 May 2022].