By Ishan Kukreti
Given India’s geopolitical situation in the subcontinent, building a strong defense force is imperative for the country. The country is surrounded by neighbors who say things like ‘their nuclear warheads are not for the occasion of Shab-e-barat’ or those who are vocal supporters of military expansion and strategies like ‘String of Pearls.’ It’s time the country realized that we are not in a very peace loving company.
India’s defense budget
In this regard, the recent defense budget of Rs 250 billion under Make-in-India (defense manufacturing) is an impressive amount. It is also impressive as it aims to make India self-reliant in terms of defense manufacturing.
This has been achieved with the investments of private players. Under Make-in-India, 46 licenses have been issued by the government for private players to undertake manufacturing of light armored vehicles, UAVs, artillery weapon systems, and underwater systems. Gautam Adani’s Adani Defense Systems and Technologies has applied for the license to manufacture helicopters while Anil Ambani has pledged an investment of Rs. 5,000 Crore into the defense sector.
The importance of Public-Private-Partnership in Defense
Importing technology and equipment from outside is not the best approach a nation can adopt to create a robust defense system.
India has been investing heavily in the defense sector for a long time but with little result. The red tape, the sluggish pace of R&D under government bodies, and structural contradictions in the defense manufacturing setup have all contributed to this. Moreover, the overstaffed bureaucratic bodies have more file pushers than innovators who can create a technically advanced defense system.
The presence of a substantial private stake in defense will bring much-needed vigor and accountability that the Indian defense sector needs today. The sloth of the bureaucracy in terms of efficient work and the ability to conceive out of the box ideas and solutions can only find an answer in a private investment which has a stake in the process.
The power relations in the sub continent
The power relations in the South Asian region have always been volatile. Disputes over the artificial border between Indian and Pakistan created by the British and instability in countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh, when combined with the aggressive military ambitions of China, make the region very hostile.
Moreover, the increasing bonhomie between China and Pakistan, with the former making inroads into the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region north of J&K, is reason enough for the country to be prepared for any future conflicts.
Given these circumstances, Modi government’s focus on defense is critical. From Babur to Luo Ruiqing, India has paid a heavy price for not taking technological advancements in defense seriously.
Wars and conflicts are realities not to be shied away from. The long maintained rhetoric of peace and non-violence, although morally noble, has rendered India a gullible republic. With all due respect to Gandhian principles, the aversion to act aggressively when the situation demands and flexing muscles afterwards is no way to be a relevant player in international relations.
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