In an era of shifting global dynamics, nations are re-evaluating their security strategies and supply chains. India, with its rich technological heritage, has embarked on a transformative path towards bolstering its indigenous defence manufacturing capabilities. This journey is defined by a series of strategic initiatives and policy reforms that underscore India’s resolute commitment to achieving self-sufficiency in producing advanced technologies and complex defence systems.
The cornerstone of India’s push for self-reliance lies in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. This comprehensive framework aims to maximize the procurement of defence equipment from domestic sources, catalyzing domestic manufacturing. Central to this effort is the “Buy Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM)” category, which prioritizes domestically developed equipment for capital acquisition. This is supplemented by the “Buy (Indian)” category, further reinforcing the importance of supporting domestic industries.
The ‘Make’ categories within the DAP foster collaboration between the defence establishment and Indian industries, promoting innovation and the development of cutting-edge technologies. These categories play a vital role in reducing dependency on foreign imports.
Crucially, the government has also stepped up to fund innovation and indigenous development. Initiatives such as the Technology Development Fund (TDF) and Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) provide essential financial support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups engaged in indigenous defence technology development. The increased funding under these schemes demonstrates the commitment to nurturing innovation and fostering ‘Aatmanirbharta’ (self-reliance) in defence.
To bolster domestic manufacturing, India has curated ‘Positive Indigenization Lists’ which outline defence equipment and platforms subject to import embargoes. This strategic approach propels investment in research and development, fostering an environment conducive to innovation.
In a pioneering move, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has introduced the Development cum Production Partner (DcPP) model. This model engages the private sector in the development and production of defence systems. Industry partners are involved in manufacturing both developmental prototypes and production units, ensuring a seamless lifecycle of support. This innovation-driven collaboration between the public and private sectors exemplifies India’s commitment to indigenous manufacturing.
Two Defence Industrial Corridors, located in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, form the bedrock of India’s domestic defence production ecosystem. These corridors promote collaboration between the government, academia, and industry, nurturing a robust defence manufacturing environment.
By earmarking a substantial portion of the defence research and development (R&D) budget for industry, start-ups, and academia, India has set the stage for transformative innovation. This collaborative approach harnesses diverse expertise, propelling the nation towards advanced indigenous technology development.
These initiatives have begun to show great results. Artillery and various types of weapon systems such as Missiles, Rockets and Torpedoes are now under production across several locations by Indian owned companies. More recently, the C295, transport aircraft, for the IAF and perhaps later for the Indian Coast Guard are being manufactured in India with the first check out of the Indian built C 295 likely. As per the PIB (Defence) release “Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for 43 DRDO developed/ being developed systems has been accorded for induction in the Services during the last three years i.e. 11 in 2021, 25 in 2022 and seven in 2023. During the last three financial years (2020-21 to 2022-23), 122 contracts have been signed for capital procurement of defence equipment, out of which, 100 contracts accounting for 87% of total contracts value, have been signed with Indian vendors for capital procurement of Defence equipment.”
Moreover, India’s defence import-export dynamics have undergone a paradigm shift. A comparison between 2013-14 and 2021-22 reveals a substantial decrease in the import-export ratio, reflecting India’s commitment to reducing dependency. As per a report Indian exports of defence equipment have clocked INR 12,815 Cr in FY 2022. This shift aligns with the nation’s pursuit of self-reliance in defence.
In conclusion, India’s journey towards atma nirbharta in defence manufacturing reflects its steadfast commitment to technological sovereignty and national security. The strides taken in policy reforms, funding provisions, industry collaboration, and skill development position India as a global leader in defence manufacturing. This journey isn’t just about reducing import dependency; it’s about fostering innovation, nurturing a domestic ecosystem, and safeguarding the nation’s strategic interests. As India progresses, it not only realizes its technological potential but also sets a trailblazing example for other nations seeking to achieve self-sufficiency in defence production.
In times to come, given the positive thrust to promote indigeneous industry and explore over seas markets the India mil-def-maritime-aero ecosystem will witness a boom in the years ahead. Indian companies, earlier vary of entering this industry, have taken to this sector with vigour and enthusiasm.