Will the government revisit defence manufacturing policy?
The govt is considering involving defence PSUs under the framework of the strategic partnership model, seen as a move to boost defence manufacturing in India
New Delhi: Nearly a year after the government opened up defence manufacturing to local and foreign private sector firms, the defence ministry is considering broadening the scope of the strategic partnership model by allowing public sector undertakings to forge joint ventures with foreign partners.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had unveiled the strategic partnership model in May last year, under which private firms were to be allowed to build submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with global defence majors.
The reform was expected to attract billions of dollars in investment as well as boost India as a defence hardware manufacturing hub.
On Wednesday, a defence ministry official said the ministry was now considering including defence public sector units (PSUs) too under this programme.
“When you talk of providing a level playing field for all parties concerned, then defence PSUs need to be included in this. Otherwise how would it be a level playing field?” additional secretary of defence production Subhash Chandra said at a press conference called to announce the Defence Expo, to be inaugurated next week in Chennai by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The rethink on broadening the scope of the strategic partnership model comes after criticism that it did not envisage any role for defence PSUs such as Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd which have been producers of key military platforms.
“There are issues relating to our policy on defence manufacturing. We are considering how to involve the PSUs. We are working on certain issues,” Chandra said.
India is a leading importer of arms and military platforms globally and the current NDA government has been putting emphasis on the indigenization of defence manufacturing.
According to Ajay Kumar, defence secretary, the Defence Expo this year aims to showcase India’s defence hardware manufacturing. India’s defence production has increased from Rs43,746 crore in 2013-14 to Rs55,894 crore in 2016-17, according to defence ministry figures.
To increase the synergy between the ministry and start-ups, the Defence Expo will see the launch of defence innovation hubs, Kumar said.
The tagline of the Expo is “India: The emerging defence manufacturing hub,” a statement released by the Defence Research and Development Organisation said, adding that the fair is expected to help India brand itself as an exporter of defence systems and components.
Some 670 exhibitors, including 517 from India, have confirmed their participation. South Korea and Russia are special partner countries, officials said. India had invited a ministerial-level delegation from China but there had been no response, one of the officials cited above said.
In all, 47 delegations from different countries have confirmed their participation, with 13 among them to be headed by defence ministers. Ministerial-level delegations are expected from the US, UK, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Myanmar, Nepal, Seychelles and Vietnam.