By Nitin Gokhale
- When the French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and India’s Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) Manohar Parrikar sign a contract for India to buy 36 Rafale combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force, they would be fulfilling a joint announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande in Paris last year.It has taken more than 16 months for the two sides to finalise the fine print but given the fact that the process to buy 126 fighter jets for the IAF had been going on for over a decade before that, this process appears to be fast track.Valued at 7.87 billion Euros, India along with the 36 fighters will also get spares and weaponry, including the Meteor missile, considered among the most advanced in the world. Of the 7.87 billion Euros, about 50 per cent will be covered under offset, which means either France will reinvest this amount in India or source equipment of this value from India. The price of 7.87 billion Euros has been arrived at after intense negotiations. Indian negotiators in fact managed to bring down the price by about 600 million Euros from the initial demand. The deal could not be signed this January when French President Francois Hollande was the Chief Guest for the Republic Day because India wanted a better price.
It is to Prime Minister Modi and Parrikar’s credit, they did not budge from what India thought was the correct price. Apart from this big breakthrough, there are many accomplishments in the Defence sector, in areas starting from defence reforms to promoting war history to this government’s credit.
In a significant decision, the Government of India opened up the defence sector for FDI, allowing 49% FDI through the automatic route and up to 100% FDI on a case-to-case basis. Also, the restrictions on what was ‘state-of-the-art technology’ have been reduced to ‘modern technology’; this would increase the number of defence companies investing in India. The joint venture between Tata and Boeing to develop the fuselages of the Apache helicopter in India is an indication of better things to come.
Another major milestone was the promulgation of the Defence Procurement Procedure -2016, which has for the first time introduced the Buy (Indian – IDDM) category of acquisition to promote the acquisition of indigenously designed, developed and manufactured equipment. This category has also been accorded the highest priority. In addition, several path-breaking initiatives such as provision to procure equipment with enhanced performance parameters, funding of private sector development projects, expanding the scope of fast track procurement etc have been introduced.
More than 110 contracts worth Rs. 1,13,995 crore have been signed, and 101 Acceptance of Necessity (AoNs)—declaration of intent to procure equipment– have been accorded for a value of Rs. 2,39,000 crore. Navy frigates, Mine Counter Measure Vessels, Apache helicopters, Chinook helicopters, Akash missiles, P8-I air crafts are some of the critical acquisitions. Key acquisitions under progress include Kamov Ka-26 helicopters, and the Ultra-Light Howitzers.
On the defence production side, 119 industrial licenses have been issued between 2014 and 2016, as against 2014 between 2001 and 2014. Expenditure on capital procurement for the Indian army from foreign vendors has reduced from Rs. 35,082 crore to Rs. 22,422 crore in the last two years. 75% of the total orders for capital acquisition for the Indian Army is with Indian vendors. Defence exports saw a growth of 38.5% in the last two years, from Rs. 1050 crore to Rs. 2014 crore. The combined production value of OFB and DPSUs have grown by 8.3% in the last two years, to Rs. 51,351 crore. The total pending offsets obligation amounts to more than USD 6 billion, and 100% of offset obligations have been claimed between 2014-15, as against 63% between 2008-13. Naval warships INS Kochi, and INS Kolkata have been inducted into service. Tejas (Light Combat Aircraft) and Hawk (Tandem seat advanced jet trainers) have been inducted into service. Varunastra (heavy weight ship launched torpedo), Mareech (advanced torpedo defence system) and INS Astradharini (torpedo launch and recover vessel), have been commissioned. Akash missile system has been inducted and Brahmos missile system has been integrated with the Sukhoi Su-30.
Defence Diplomacy is of strategic importance for the Narendra Modi Government, which is determined to raise India’s standing in the world. As part of its defence diplomacy efforts, India expanded defence engagement with extended neighbourhood through capability partnerships and equipment support for Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal. India signed defence cooperation agreements and MoUs with over 20 nations including Japan, Singapore, Oman, UAE, Vietnam, Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan to facilitate defence tie-ups and exports. Key agreements were signed with both the US and Russia. Humanitarian and Disaster Relief efforts were carried out in war torn regions helping Indians and citizens of 19 different nations reach home safely. India also conducted the first ever joint exercise in India, on Humanitarian Mine Action involving 300 officials from 18 nations under the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus framework.
A long standing demand of one-rank-one –pension has been fulfilled. Pension and arrears amounting to Rs. 3, 578 crore have been disbursed to 18, 59, 083 pensioners.
National Cadet Corps:
NCC is integral to the student life of most school students. There has been a 16% increase in the enrolment of female cadets in NCC, and 14,000 NCC cadets have joined the Indian armed forces. 6,84,000 cadets took part in 2nd international yoga celebrations; 4,21,632 cadets took part in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan initiatives; and 2,29,056 NCC cadets took part in tree plantation efforts across the nation. A 16 member NCC cadets team consisting of 11 women scaled the Mt. Everest in May 2016.
The Modi government has been serious about pushing women towards greater responsibilities. With three female officers of the Indian Air Force becoming fighter pilots, India joins an elite club of nations with women fighter pilots.
In order to promote awareness about our war history, the Government has approved the construction of a National War Memorial and a National War Museum. The Ministry of Defence is a mammoth ocean and reforming it is never going to be easy. Besides, reforming the defence sector will require a multilateral approach. It requires systemic reform push at various levels, which is what is happening currently under the stewardship of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. It will be interesting to see what shape the above-mentioned initiative stake in the next three years.
(The author is a veteran national security analyst, media trainer, author and founder of BharatShakti.in)