‘​Atma Nirbharta’ In Defence Sector

In an opinion piece, Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd) argued for a balance in operational necessities along with the necessary indigenisation push. Paving way for `Atma Nirbharta’ (self-reliance) in the defence sector, Finance Minister (FM) Nirmala Sitharaman, on May 16, 2020, announced policy and structural reforms.

A Familiar Paradox

The Indian defence planners face a peculiar paradox. On one hand is the need to keep the armed forces operationally ready at all times, to combat perpetual threats along active borders and to respond to national and regional situations. The process of indigenisation however entails diligent perspective planning, assured budgetary support, and patience for design, development and manufacture, including allowance for some inevitable failures.

​Focus On Self-Reliance

The first step therefore is to implement this policy in segments in which we already have proficiency Eg. Artillery guns, missiles, multi barrel rocket launchers, some categories of radars, munitions etc. Alongside, identify areas in which we desire to become self-reliant, with time lines.

Spiral Development 

In recent days, the Services have also been called upon to set realistic GSQR (General Staff Qualitative Requirements)’, which it is assumed are deliberately pitched high. What is acceptable however is the concept of `spiral development’, in which, during the course of development, lower, but operationally acceptable variants, can be inducted as Mark 1 and progressive upgrades offered thereafter.

​The Way Forward

The hallowed structures like the Defence Planning Committee, CDS, the Department of Military Affairs, which have been put in place recently, require robust integral staff of professionals for institutionalised in-house diligence. Hurried decisions taken at the highest levels, in an ad hoc manner, can be unsettling for the armed forces and counterproductive to national security.