good idea

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Apr 2018 12:13:47

THERE is no doubt that the idea to sell Indian-made missiles to friendly nations is good as it speaks of India’s growing capabilities in ordnance manufacture. That many countries have shown interest in acquiring missiles designed and manufactured by India, is one piece of news that should make common Indian people happy as well as proud. There is little doubt that a wave of cheer must have spread across the audience when Defence Minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman told the gathering at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) about the new development. This development indicates that Indian ordnance industry is coming of age and is ready to sell its merchandise to other countries. 

More than fifty years ago, when the Government started laying special emphasis on manufacture of ordnance merchandise, the industry was almost fully owned by the Government. The Ordnance Factories that came up across the Indian landscape started adding a new grace and grandeur to overall Indian industry. Yet, the start was not without teething trouble and the ordnance industry was agonisingly slow to pick up strength to start producing at its full installed capacity. Subsequently, however, things started improving when the Government allowed private sector, too, to step in. Much progress has been registered ever since. In recent years, Indian ordnance industry is being treated with a lot of respect by the world as the Government has redefined its funding and manufacturing policies.

On a parallel track, the various defence research laboratories also started doing smart work to provide good designs and ideas to the manufacturing sector. On this count, too, the initial progress was terribly slow and full of mistakes that landed the industry in trouble. Yet, with the advances entities like Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), National Physical Laboratory, Defence Research and Development Organisation started making, the national ordnance industry started growing at a faster and more confident pace. The confidence that Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman expressed at the CII conclave reflected all this development. It also indicated how right visionaries like Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Dr. Homi Bhabha, and others were when they saw the dream of India developing its own ordnance industry in tandem with research organisations. They were the men who foresaw India as one of the leading makers of ordnance material that other countries would lap up. Their dream had two dimensions: One pertained to self-reliance in defence equipment, and the other pertained to a possible way to earn money as well as friends.

Of course, India’s own defence needs are gigantic and the country’s own industry cannot fulfil that requirement. India still has to depend heavily on foreign sources for its defence acquisitions, a condition that at times sends shivers down the spine. For, in matters of crunch, foreign sources may not be of much use to India. That possible worst-case scenario is certainly worrisome. Against this background, Indian defence industry has to go a very long way to make the country self-reliant. Yet, if a parallel commercial activity evolves bringing for the country some money as well as dependable friends among client-nations, then we must welcome the development. It is necessary, however, to offer a word of caution that nothing should be done at the cost of ultimate national interest. To some, this word of caution might appear rather naive. But given the fact that on some critical issues, the Government has made blunders in the past, it is necessary to add a word by way of reminder that Indian defence industry is still in its fledgling stage and would need a lot of support and vigorous leadership.