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Three options that will boost India’s defence prospects in 2021

India needs to maximise its military’s operational capacity and increase the possibility of indigenisation without confusing the two and ending up nowhere

December 11, 2020 / 02:23 PM IST
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits in a hanger at Creech Air Force Base May 19, 2016. The base in Nevada is the hub for the military's unmanned aircraft operations in the United States. REUTERS/Josh Smith/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits in a hanger at Creech Air Force Base May 19, 2016. The base in Nevada is the hub for the military's unmanned aircraft operations in the United States. REUTERS/Josh Smith/File Photo

For 70 years, the Indian military has been in a state of flux — after several bouts of sanction, we’ve endured several failed quests for indigenisation.

In any military, the competition is usually between indigenisation (investing in the future) and operational capability (invest in here and now). Yet we have failed at indigenisation, nor have we an enviable operational capability — this despite a military budget that is higher than Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Italy and Israel all of whom have outstanding defence products to sell.

If we have failed at indigenisation, it is because of the touchingly naïve belief that domestic defence development can happen in isolation from an abysmal education system, capricious industrial regulation, an unloved MSME sector and obsolete labour regulations.

If we have failed to create operational capability proportionate to the size of our forces on paper or the defence budget, it is because of the mix-and-match purchases, constantly shifting requirements, obsolete thought, wilful disregard of realistic budgeting, and the childlike innocence of believing that drafting the ‘perfect’ defence procurement procedure can overcome a massive human capacity deficit in the procurement process.