One of the six Scorpene submarines that are being built with French collaboration at Mazagon Docks for over Rs 23,000 crore. The French firm involved in it has pulled out of the new Project-75 India for next-gen submarines under the strategic partnership initiative

NEW DELHI: Five years after the strategic partnership (SP) model was promulgated to boost indigenous defence production through tie-ups with foreign armament majors, not a single project has taken off under the much-touted ‘Make in India’ policy till now reports TOI.

The SP model projects identified by the defence ministry ranged from the manufacture of new-generation submarines and helicopters to advanced fighters and futuristic main-battle tanks in long-term joint ventures between Indian companies and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) with “deep and extensive” transfers of technology.

But the first project to make six diesel-electric stealth submarines with air independent propulsion for greater underwater endurance, at an initial estimated cost of Rs 43,000 crore under Project-75 India (P-75I), is still far away from the actual contract being inked after the long-winded initial shortlisting and tender process.

The defence ministry in July last year issued the RFP (request for proposal) to defence shipyard Mazagon Docks and private shipbuilder L&T, who in turn were to join hands with one of the five shortlisted OEMs to submit techno-commercial bids for the mega project.

The foreign ship-builders were Naval Group-DCNS (France), Rosoboronexport (Russia), ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (Germany), Navantia (Spain) and Daewoo (South Korea). “The French and Russians have already formally pulled out of the competition. Two others have also expressed concerns about the technical and commercial conditions,” a defence official said on Tuesday.

The other SP projects have not even reached this preliminary stage. One of them is the Navy’s long pending acquisition of 111 armed, twin-engine utility choppers at a cost of over Rs 21,000 crore to replace its ageing fleet of single-engine Chetak helicopters.

Another is IAF’s quest for 114 new 4.5-generation fighters with “some fifth-generation capabilities” for over Rs1.25 lakh crore, which has seven foreign contenders but is yet to be even granted the initial “acceptance of necessity” by the defence ministry.

The Army in May-June last year had also issued a RFI (request for Information) for acquiring 1,770 “future ready combat vehicles” or tanks in a phased manner.

“All the SP model projects are in the doldrums, putting a big question mark on the entire policy. In P-75I, for instance, the time for submission of bids has been repeatedly extended, and now stands at June 30,” another official said.

“The pricing methodology of the SP model policy, notified in May 2017, is flawed. Moreover, long-term partnerships require assured and repeated orders, which is not permitted under the existing rules,” he added.

The SP model was initially meant to progressively build capabilities in the Indian private sector to design, develop and manufacture complex weapons for the future needs of the armed forces. “But then the public sector also muscled its way in. A relook at the entire policy is now needed,” an official said.