The 9 August announcement by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh placing an embargo on imports of 101 items is a game-changer as it will lead to a much-needed ecosystem and direction to self-reliance in defence manufacturing. The negative arms list will force Indian R&D and defence industry to develop and manufacture critical arms and equipment in India as import is no longer an option. However, equally or more important is to incentivise and encourage private defence industry to take the lead rather than bank upon the lethargic and suboptimal Ordnance factory board to drive the “Aatmanirbhar” initiative.
The recent multiple transgressions/incursions by China along the LAC and the treachery by the PLA at Galwan are a wakeup call for the nation and the armed forces. As China blatantly indulges in military coercion, India, and the Army in particular needs to be future-ready to deter China’s aggressive behaviour along the LAC. China respects strength and India will have to counter China from a position of relative strength. A peaceful, risen, responsible, resurgent India has to ensure continued peace through military preparedness. On account of competing priorities on a limited budget, which will take a further hit due to the Covid-19 impact, the Ministry of Defence will have to look inwards and ensure optimal utilisation of resources to meet and mitigate the China threat. While the disengagement process will be lengthy and laborious, the armed forces should plan ahead and be future-ready.
One of the major weaknesses in our capabilities and capacities is a weak Defence Industrial Base, centred around the government owned and operated 41 Ordnance factories and 9 DPSUS. India honestly does not have a defence industrial base to support the defence needs. We are the largest arms importers with 13% of global sales according to SIPRI data. India increased its arms imports by 43% between 2007 and 2011 and 2012-16 periods. About 60- 65% of military hardware is of Russia/Soviet Origin. If you take the import figures since 1950 to 2017 India has imported $119.89 billion worth of arms by far the largest, double than that of Saudi Arabia.
To the credit of MoD, the Defence Minister has given added impetus and focus to defence reforms, initiating action on many critical -pending issues. India needs to be Self Reliant in Defence and for that the private players have to play a leading role duly supported by the government and the armed forces. A self-reliant India in the defence sector is an imperative to position itself as a global leader, and deter China’s aggressive behaviour. Presently, the military is supported mostly by a captive OFB, which continues to follow archaic procedures and processes, resisting any change as it disturbs the comfort levels and existing equilibrium of the eighty odd thousand workforce and the management.
The orders placed on the OFB and DPSUs are to the tune of Rs 59,000 crore, however, it is doubtful whether the armed forces have been given a reasonable deal. The defence budget is already stressed as the armed forces try to optimise the resources by cutting costs. As the armed forces are captive, they have no say in pricing often incurring higher costs for products which can be procured at lesser rates. Competition is essential for better quality products at appropriate costs. In addition the armed forces maintain a large inventory to cater for war wastage reserves (WWR). The costs to maintain this large inventory including infrastructure is prohibitive. The private industry should be encouraged and incentivised to become an integral part of the defence preparedness. The large WWR inventory can be reduced in case the industry has surge capacities built in the defence sector, which will cater for emergent situations reducing the dependence on imports.
It is a common belief and a known fact that the OFB products are of poor quality, not reliable and come at a prohibitive cost on account of time and cost overruns. The soldiers also lack faith in OFB products on account of many accidents which occur due to poor quality of munitions at regular intervals causing avoidable loss of life and limbs. The military is captive and has no say in the costing which results in avoidable drain on a depleting defence budget. On account of a near total monopoly there is zero incentive and accountability for the ordnance factories to innovate and improve products. Numerous committees over the years have been set up to revamp the Ordnance factories, but the resistance from the workforce has succeeded in ensuring an uncanny status quo as the present system serves the best interests of the 80,000 plus workforce, guarding the turf. Nation and national security have to take priority over misplaced interests of a few who continue to thrive in a comfort zone. Earlier attempts by the government to corportise the OFB met with stiff resistance, wherein the workforce went on a strike paralysing defence production. So much so it was also reported that the work force threatened to strike work as on 01 July if the government insisted on corporatisation, this in the face of the ongoing situation along the LAC. Turf apparently is more important than the nation.
Numerous committees set up by the government have recommended corporatisation of the OFB, starting with T.K.A. Nair Committee (2000), Vijay Kelkar Committee (2004) , Raman Puri Committee (2015) and the Shekatkar Committee, a committee of experts convened by Manohar Parikar in 2016, recommended the corporatisation of the OFB. Based on the report and to strengthen their self-reliance in defence production, the Government announced on 16 May 2020 under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package, that corporatisation of OFB would be undertaken to improve autonomy, accountability and efficiency in ordnance supplies.
The proposed transformation of OFB from a Government department to a public sector corporate entity will further defence preparedness, contributing to transforming “Indian military from a military force to a military power”.
The advantages that will accrue include:
• Enhance effectiveness and improve efficiency, move towards optimal costing.
• Reduce import dependency for arms and ammunition.
• Enhanced combat efficiency of the armed forces, ensuring customer satisfaction through timely delivery.
• Greater penetration in the defence export market.
• Leap-frogging technology and innovation for self-reliance in defence.
• Sustainable business model and creation of jobs in the long run.
• Increase production capacity and retention of capability & knowledge base.
• Improve flexibility and dynamism in decision making as corporate entity without shackles of Government procedures.
• Move away from cost plus mechanism to competitive pricing.
• Under-utilized capacities in factories will be better utilised.
• Timely supply and quality of supplies by the factories will be improved.
• Corporate entity to move from production based to technology based organisation enhancing selfreliance.
• Increased turnover/profitability to lead to enhanced employment and better service conditions for employees.
• Greater flexibility in technology acquisition through overseas assets.
• Top management in the corporatized structure would be in a position to provide leadership and could initiate change process to respond to competition. The factories may be able to create new streams of revenues by leveraging engineering and technological capabilities.
• Corporatised ordnance factories can form strategic alliances with Indian and overseas companies to develop new products. And carve out a niche in the international armament industry.
Corporatisation of OFB into a 100% governmentowned public sector unit will also ensure quality arms and equipment enhancing the combat and cost effectiveness. The time for change is now, the government has implemented many hard decisions in the interest of national security, corporatisation of the OFB is an imperative and will contribute to transforming the military from a force to a power, ensuring peace through preparedness. The armed forces need to deter China’s aggressiveness ensuring territorial integrity which is best done from a position of relative strength. An Aatmanirbhar Bharat in defence manufacturing is a must; the beginning should be the corporatisation of OFB.
Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd.) is the former Director General of Military Operations, Indian Army. He is currently the Director, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) and member of the Seketkar committee. Views expressed are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CENJOWS.
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Northern Army Command inducts indigenous 4×4 Quick Reaction Force vehicles
The Northern Command of the Indian Army announced the induction of the 4×4 Quick Reaction Force vehicles on Thursday.
The Northern Command tweeted, “Northern Command inducts 4×4 Quick Reaction Force Vehicles, an indigenous initiative by Bharat Forge Limited; an all-terrain high mobility combat troop carrier with armour and mine protection.”
The all-terrain, high mobility combat troop carrier comes with armour and mine protection. It is indigenous and manufactured by Bharat Forge Limited.
Two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists killed in the J&K encounter
Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), an Al-Qaeda-linked terror outfit in Kashmir, has suffered a major setback. In an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar, security forces killed two more AGH terrorists.
The AGH terrorists were apprehended after the army and police received specific information about their presence.
During the exchange of fire, forces killed two local Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists from AGH. Both terrorists are Pulwama residents who have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks.
According to police, the terrorists were also involved in an attack on a migrant worker in Pulwama.
N. Korea enacts law on preventive nuclear strikes, France calls “threat to peace”
France criticised North Korea’s adoption of a law announcing its preparedness to launch preventive nuclear strikes on Friday, calling it a “threat to international and regional peace and security.”
The announcement from the foreign ministry came after North Korean state media earlier on Friday reported that Pyongyang had enacted a law authorising preventative strikes, including in the event of conventional attacks.
“This new escalation on the part of the North Korean authorities represents a threat to international and regional peace and security,” said a ministry spokeswoman.
France “notes with great concern the increasingly aggressive declarations from North Korea,” she added.
The decision by Pyongyang practically puts an end to the possibility of denuclearization talks after leader Kim Jong Un said that the nation’s nuclear status is now “irreversible.”
The announcement comes at a time when the North and South are experiencing greater conflict.
In addition to conducting a record number of weapons tests this year, Pyongyang has blamed the COVID-19 outbreak in its territory on Seoul.
China has successfully tested its first solar-powered drone capable of acting as a satellite
A Chinese government official informed in a tweet that China has successfully tested its first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), named Qimingxing-50, which can fly for months and can function even as a satellite if required.
What is the significance of this test flight?
The Qimingxing-50, with a wingspan of 50 m, is a high-altitude long-endurance drone that is capable of high-altitude aerial reconnaissance, assessing forest fire and can also be used for communications.
This technology will bolster Chinese defences in space and at sea. It can be used in the fields of renewable energy, new materials, and aeronautical engineering. The Chinese official also asserted that this test flight is an important step towards sustainable development.
Use of the UAV as a satellite:
The UAV, whose name translates as “Morning Star-50” in English, is claimed to be capable of functioning uninterrupted for months. This capability of having a long-endurance flight gives it a use case of operating as a satellite.
Like satellites, it is fully electric-driven, powered by solar energy and can operate at 20 km above the Earth’s surface for an extended period of time continuously. It is also referred to as a “High Altitude Platform Station” or a “pseudo-satellite.”
It can be used when there is unavailability or disruption in satellite services. The report says that compared to the cost and complexity of installing a satellite in orbit, this UAV is much more cost-effective and easy to operate.
Strict security measures have been taken at the Central Vista ahead of the inauguration by PM Modi
As Prime Minister Nrendra Modi is going to inaugurate the newly revamped Central Vista on Thursday, over 1,500 police personnel have been deployed for security over there.
A senior official of Delhi Police who is aware of the security arrangements said that the area has been divided into eight zones, which will be manned all day by eight deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) and additional deputy commissioners of police (ADCPs).
The officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Besides 17 assistant commissioners of police (ACPs), 43 inspectors and nearly 1,200 upper and lower-rank staff of Delhi Police will be patrolling in the areas. While ten Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies will patrol the area during the day, two additional CAPF companies have been deployed for security arrangements during the evening shift.As many as five patrolling teams in 10 mobile patrolling vans (MPVs) will be keeping a constant watch on all the public movement in the area.”
Another officer said that, “The Multi Zone Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMD) have been installed at 90 points in 25 locations in the area. Apart from one anti-drone gun, one counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has also been installed in the area, to detect, track, and ultimately disrupt and destroy any suspicious aerial intrusion. While five teams of spotters will keep a strict vigil in the area, another five traffic decongestion teams have been deployed there to immediately remove any traffic bottlenecks in the area. As many as five SWAT teams have been deployed in the area to avert any emergency crisis.”
The official added that drones will not be permitted near Central Vista on Thursday.
Pakistani rangers opened fire on BSF patrolling party in J&K
As per the reports, Pakistani rangers opened fire on a Border Security Force (BSF) patrolling party in Jammu and Kashmir’s Arnia sector on Tuesday morning, prompting the BSF to respond appropriately to the “unprovoked firing”.
“Today morning the alert BSF Jammu troops gave a befitting reply to the unprovoked firing by Pak rangers on BSF patrolling party in Arnia Sector. No loss (of lives) or injury (reported) to the BSF troops,” a statement issued by a BSF spokesperson said.
On February 24, 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly adhere to all agreements and understandings concerning cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, among other sectors.
Other incidents of firing by Pakistani troops have occurred in the last year and a half, but Tuesday’s incident was “a major one” and occurred on a day when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in India for talks, an officer anonymously said.
According to a second officer, the Indian Army and BSF respond immediately and effectively to unprovoked firings and ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC and IB.
Before the agreement in 2021, there were 5,133 ceasefire violations in 2020, 3,479 in 2019, and 2,140 in 2018. However, this number dropped to around 700 last year. Statistics for 2022 are not yet available.
The Indian government has maintained that it is Pakistan’s responsibility to create a conducive environment by taking credible, verifiable, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for cross-border terrorism against India in any way.
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