Friday, November 20, 2009

Indian arms procurement policy and snails, who will win the race?

“The internal politics over the years is such that whatever defence requirements are cleared by the government, they are opposed by the opposition parties and the same happens when roles change and the opposition sits in government. That impinges very badly on our defence requirements. As far as defence goes, we don’t even match up with Pakistan,” Barbora, while referring to Defence exports, told an aerospace seminar organized in New Delhi by the CII.

[Malabar 2009]

The Barbora referred here is no other than our Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora. Normally personals from armed services will not come in open space and criticize the policies of government. In such a background if Vice chief of IAF made a public statement on this issue then anyone can imagine how much critical the issue is.

In fact there is no need to argue on whether India need more artillery, fighter aircrafts, submarines or not. The reasons are well known. In fact India's "highly friendly neighbors" will increase their military potential to the maximum extend they can under any circumstances. And we have one of the most bloody borders in the world. In fact we fought war in the eastern(Bangladesh Liberation war), north and north east(Indo - Sino war), west (Indo - Pak wars).

[A picture from Kargil war]

Apart from this there are many insurgent activities with in India like Maoists(who already have presence in approximately one third of the country), illigals militias of north east, Terrorism in J & K, and random terrorist attacks in other part of the country. In many cases these people are fighting with security forces using their advanced weapons, all time favorite AK 47 to the latest guns, LMGs etc visible in Hollywood films.

There is only two ways to get the modern weapons. Either we have to develop it or buy it from other countries. But the main problem to attached to developing arms in India is the long development cycles, some projects in defence sector is taking decades to show result. Some times it will achieve target or we simply buy the necessary weapons from outside in wake of urgency.

The main problem to secure cutting edge defence technology is the high price tag attached to it. Any country will think twice before buying machines like F22 Raptor, B2 Spirit etc. Thanks to our developing economy we have funds. We have funds(even if it may not be enough for a maga shopping always) to buy or develop it. As a usual exercise we are allocating funds for defence purchases.

[IAF Aircraft over Chenab river]

But what happens later? Armed forces will identify requirements, and submit the proposal to the government. So far good. Later we will float the tender, shortlist the defence firms, make the trails accross all the terrains, then negotiate on price and bought the weapon and train the personals to use it.

But after the proposals stage we will take a long time to float the tender, more time to short list. In some cases we will float the tender again short listing again, the long time negotiations on price. At this point of time some politicians will accuse the government about corruption. Some one will file a case in Supreme Court. And our long legal procedure will start. In the mean time the accused company may be blacklisted, and the project stalled. After sometime we may again open the cold storage and show some lights to the old proposals. But by that time requirement may be changed. As long as we have 'n' number of parties at any time to oppose the government, most of the time we will have accusations over defence purchases even if it is right or wrong. And except in rare occasions investigation will took years to complete.

For more read my articles on defence
Modernization of Chinese Navy and other Asian countries
Private Companies will no loger be untouchable in Indian defence sector
Indian Navy required complete modernisation
Suryakiran team should not be disbanded
Continuous saga of delay in defence contracts, Army's struggle with choppers

Due to fear of future accusations, now a days purchase order files are moving with snail's pace or even dead. And after blacklisting many companies there may be 1 or 2 company remains in many sectors. Remember that the worlds of arms market are not run by angles.
I don’t understand the problem with FII and private sector firms in Indian defence sector. What the problem with FII when we are buying the arms itself foreign companies? As long as there will be strict guidelines for FII and the investments are in the companies/places in India I don’t see any problem at all. What about private companies? Why government have problem about the private sector's entry to core defence sectors? After all they are Indian companies working under the guidelines of GOI. Anyone thinks that Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, Dessault etc are pure government companies?

In my opinion we should develop a process model for defence purchase, and stick to it. We should precisely define a framework and guidelines for purchasing arms. From requirement gathering phase on wards, set a time line and completely obey it. The framework should define what we have to do in each and every phase, and paying a premium for cutting edge technology is not bad. Build a specific professional team for arms purchase and make direct contact with top arms manufacturers. At the same time make it sure that if we bought a weapon, spare parts will be available for it in the future.

It’s our duty to give most advanced weapon in the hands of soldiers protecting our borders in time. In a time when our  internal and external security threats are rising; multiplying our capabilities should be a high priority task.

Allow more FDI in defence sector: IAF Vice Chief
IAF vice chief hits out at political class over defence issues
IAF Vice Chief’s latest: Politics stalls defence purchases

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