The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has placed curbs on imports of specified weapons and armed kits in its latest efforts to promote self-reliance in acquiring military equipment. A “Positive Indigenization List” has been prepared to list the defence equipment that cannot be imported. The list was introduced by the Government in 2020 to reduce its dependence on imports of military weapons and to promote atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defence sector.
PIL policy role in promoting indigenization
The policy of PIL entails that items mentioned in the list shall be procured by armed forces from domestic Indian manufacturers which may include both private sector and defence public sector undertakings (DPSU).
Recent MOD report shows that PIL contains 2500 items that have already been indigenized and another 1238 items that will be indigenized in the coming future.
According to MOD, defence imports, which constituted 46% of capital expenditure in 2018-19, have been reduced to only 36.7% by the end of December 2022.
According to SIPRI report, there has been 11% decline in arms purchase between 2013-17 to 2018-22, highlighting the positive impact of PIL, Make in India etc.
Initiatives like Srijan dashboard which provide information regarding product items that are notified in PIL. It is helpful for the private sector to cooperate with DPSU in the process of indigenization.
PIL Provides certainty to private sector that the items will be procured locally. Many times, the government purchased the items developed by the private sector from foreign companies.
The approach of indigenization will be crucial to raise investment from private sector, create jobs and foster state of art technologies which can be used to increase defence exports.
What are the Implication of PIL on defence sector?
- The main concern regarding PIL policy is related to quality and timing issues. In the past, projects like Arjun tank, Tejas fighter aircraft, Dhruv light helicopter, and Project 15A and 15B destroyers have led to time and cost overruns.
- The defence industry in India lacks state of art, skilled workforce and innovation and cutting-edge technology which are available to its foreign counterpart which makes it difficult for products in India to compete with foreign weapons.
- Also, there are doubts regarding suitability of PIL to achieve indigenization of sophisticated weapons. It takes a substantial amount of time to create state of art weapons while the defence products are getting more sophisticated through the use of technologies like AI, Robotics, and Nanotechnology. It may affect the warfare capability of armed forces.
The policy of MOD regarding PIL holds relevance for India to be global leader and becoming 5 trillion economy but the policy should not be at the cost of slowing down preparedness of armed forces for future combat.