Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Technological superiority will be the decisive battle winning factor in future warfare. It is, therefore, imperative to build indigenous technology capabilities relevant to the needs of our armed forces, both for conventional and sub conventional conflict. Experience has shown beyond doubt that availability of desired defence technologies from other countries cannot be relied upon. Even friendly nations would be reluctant to part with the latest emerging and critical defence technologies. These would necessarily have to be developed through indigenous Research & Development(R&D).
Investment in defence R&D by Indian industry is very low. That there are very few defence related patents filed in India is an obvious manifestation of this malaise. Our Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) established over five decades ago, with more than 50 labs catering to various defence related technologies, has virtual monopoly in the field of defence R&D. However, it has very few successes to show for its relatively high level of staffing and funding, with most projects having huge cost and time overruns. India’s space, missile and nuclear scientists have no doubt demonstrated their capability to innovate and indigenise in the face of technology control regimes, but this unfortunately does not apply to most other critical defence technologies.
India’s ordnance factories and defence public sector undertakings have so far been satisfied with manufacturing under licence, weapons and equipment of foreign origin, without the transfer of critical technologies. With the recent emphasis on indigenisation and the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Indian defence industry is being encouraged to partner with foreign design and manufacturing organisations and obtain transfer of critical technologies. The liberalisation of FDI limit in defence sector to 49% is another step in this direction. DRDO, which has the responsibility of defence technology forecasting, has issued a list of the critical technologies it requires and an elaborate offset policy has been promulgated to ensure this. A Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap (TPCR) has been issued by the Ministry of Defence, based on our Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), with a view to channelising indigenous R&D in defence technologies, both in the public and private sector, with the active participation of academia.
Emerging technologies are bound to revolutionise warfare in the years ahead. Nations that can create sustainable eco systems for nurturing indigenous emerging defence technologies, synergising the same with innovative operational doctrines, ensuring organisational adoption and raising the technical threshold of users, will achieve much higher levels of relative military effectiveness. For a country like India to be able to exercise its own independent foreign policy in the interest of its national security, it should achieve self reliance in critical defence technologies, enabling it to pursue an independent military strategy while providing the nation with vital techno-economic strength. Self reliance in emerging defence technologies should be a ‘National Mission’.