Dynamics of Indian Defence Technology- “Indianisation-Indigenisation-Industrialisation-Integration”

The philosophy of approach in military technology is based on concept of purpose, vision of intent, potency in performance, relevancy in role, efficient effectiveness in execution and purposeful in performance. Being maturely Indian in content is what needs to be added to the above.

Sixty years down the line, four battle engagements in the annals of our fledgling democratic history, our defence technology story is one of unexpected miracles and unacceptable failures. Holistic understanding of the big picture is the foundation on which the edifice of the defence industrial base of India can be progressively pillared.

Indian defence Technology is at the cross roads of a junction. Four roads are there for us to take. The Indian democratic defence technology omnibus has five drivers at once. Which are these?

  • The Indian Military
  • The DRDO/DPSUs
  • The Private Sector
  • The Political leadership
  • The People of India

Each one of the first three, want, to take a different road. Each one is correct and each one is wrong. The fourth one does not have a license of understanding. The fifth one is passive and perhaps indifferent. Since no consensus is obtaining the omnibus has driven itself mostly to the fourth road. What are the four roads, we are talking about?

  • The Import Highway
  • The Indian Route
  • The Private Path
  • The Nowhere Road

The most important aspect of this impasse is the fact that the import highway is used by outsiders to show their advanced technology hardware to the relief and delight of the military. The latter already hard pressed operationally naturally want to use what they perceive would serve them optimally.

The Indian route is also slowly gaining in status and repute. It is slowly finding its niche thanks to the persistence of the Government that seems to sense the wisdom of allowing both the Import highway and Indian route to coexist.

The private path has just begun to be paved but has to depend on both the Military and DRDO/DPSUs.

The “No Where Road” is an illusion. It looks real and good, close at hand but is actually a shimmering mirage. Our country had no choice but to be on this road. Post independence India chose to be non- aligned. The West shunned us and ensured that even Great Britain did not pass on technology specially the military aspects. If we missed the industrial revolution in the distant past, we missed the technological evolution of the late 19th and early 20th century. The West led by USA with the experience of two World Wars emerged as a superior military technology power in comparison to the Soviet Union in the communist bloc. Yet both possessed the ability of mass destruction. The Cold War era left India stone cold in terms of military technology. Compounding this was the ironic reality of the Indian Leadership approach of separating foreign policy and security. Consequently, defence technology was far removed from the Politico- Bureaucratic- Military mind.

The bad news was that defence technology as a focus never even began in the minds of the leadership. Perhaps the arduous challenges of governance, management of the nation in a diverse democracy kept the polity pre-occupied. Indian leadership’s idealism too was a major factor. Events of 1962 changed all that. The Sino Indian conflict and the setbacks of the venerated Indian Military came as rude shocks. One expected the establishment to respond. It barely reacted. The military was licking its pride and wounds. The blame game was distracting. Within the three services and the bureaucracy the culture of compartmentalized working, took deep roots. Our non-aligned posture did nothing to alleviate the military hollowness. The then Soviet Union greatly enamoured by Nehru and India, stepped in to unconditionally support India. That democracy and communism could co- exist as close bed fellows surprised the West. At the same time the USA hardened its stand and continued its military technology denial strategy. The soviet military machine and leadership rapidly supplied and trained the three services on relatively modern equipment.

To their credit the Indian armed forces adopted, adapted and professionally absorbed the Soviet machinery with aplomb and innovation. To our good luck, the Soviet military ensured identical stringent procedures for equipment testing acceptance and supply at so called friendship prices. However expedient and advantageous this arrangement was the principal issue of defence technology was again given a go by.

The Indian military now a British clone, mostly using Russian equipment, with western doctrines in Indian terrain, speaking Hinglish (combination of Hindi and English) was an enigma to itself and the World.


In 1958 the country set up the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO). It was a visionary approach, considering the, circumstances and the environs. However the fundamental flaw was in the concept of its operating philosophy and its stand alone structure. Ever since its inception, this opportune Military R&D set up, the Ministry of Defence and the services have a stand-off beginning with, exaggerated mutual expectations and gross misperceptions. The Armed forces wanted the nascent DRDO to rapidly produce advanced technology weapons and systems at par with the Western and Soviet military industrial complex. There was neither appreciation nor empathy on the situation obtaining on the ground. The lack of even a basic defence industrial base, the absence of private industry participation, and unpreparedness were all discounted.

Within DRDO the set up had the flaw of being hierarchical with seniority taking priority over talent and innovation. The promotion structure, the pulls and pushes of the annual confidential reports result in the sacrifice of true R&D. The Armed forces too were obtuse in their appreciation of what military technology development entailed. Most ironically the concept of tasking DRDO to develop a felt need or upgrade an existing system was never contemplated. Their comfort level of handling Russian equipment and pre occupation with internal security and external security concerns led to progressive dependency on external sources for military needs.

Department of Defence Production

The Department of Defence Production was set up in 1962, in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression to create a self-reliant and self-sufficient indigenous defence production base. In November, 1965, Department of Defence Supplies was created to forge linkages between the

In addition the following organisations are also associated with the Department of Defence Production for technical support:-

i Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA)
ii Directorate of Standardisation
iii Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA)
iv Directorate of Planning & Coordination
v Defence Exhibition Organisation (DEO).

Overview and Assessment

60 years post independence India has come off age in terms of a capable civil industrial complex and a home grown military technological complex. All this has been part of a democratic process, plodding, painful, perplexing and persevering.

From a completely buyers’ military we are becoming a partial builder’s military. Warships from our defence ship yards, aircraft, and helicopters, from HAL. Tanks from Avadi tank factory have all appeared on our military horizon. There are debates for and against on their operational viability. These actually do not matter as the country has realized the value of self reliance and we can only keep on improving.

The State of Indianisation & Indigenisation

Indianisation means converting all equipment to meet our military needs. In this there has been considerable achievement as proven in the 1971 and Kargil OP Vijay. The use of missile boats, MIG 21s, armour and weapons is testimony to our innovative adaption of equipment.

Indigenisation means building at home complete systems or parts there off. Here too we have several achievements in terms of graduating from assembling knock down kits to building from scratch. All these have been part of a big trial and error process. The services too have set up considerable technology infrastructure. Base repair depots, EME workshops, naval dockyards for operational maintenance and repair.

In a nutshell we have Indianised well, indigenised satisfactorily and yet nowhere near becoming “Indian” in terms of becoming reasonably self reliant across the spectrum of Indian battle order needs.

This realistic assessment has to be viewed in sanguine terms. Holistic overview would readily point out that India has individual excellence, brilliance and vision. Organisational obtuseness. Lack of, collective strategic vision, synergy and hands off Political leadership continue to keep us on the “Nowhere road”

In the military sector we continue to be a house divided against itself. Macro realities highlighted below need openness in understanding the big picture. Only then change can take place for the greater good in becoming a self reliant military technology complex in the next three decades or so.

Macro Realities

The Indian psyche, of grossly exaggerating our achievements, glossing over screw driver technology successes, ultra-sensitiveness to criticism over failure and reluctance to work together as a combined force is the burden of our mindset.

The way the higher defence decision tree is designed is sub optimal in function, output and result. The concept of customer satisfaction as an important accountable imperative is more in absence. Lack of ownership approach by the armed forces too is a complicating factor. Notable examples are the LCA, the MBT Arjun, Dhruv Attack light helicopter among the many. In all these, the military virtually took a hands-off approach and wanted the DRDO/DPSU to hand them over a readymade product. Then they would examine it for failure. Collective participation then, as is beginning to obtain now would have yielded better results at lower costs. On their part the Armed forces were made to feel apprehensive about acquisitions from abroad and hence had a mind set of wait and watch on “indigenisation”

The Department of Defence Production, DPSUs, the armed forces, the DRDO, the MOD, Ministry of Finance, the Home Ministry, the Ordnance factories and the private sector need to have direct dynamic, autonomous connectivity. The absence of any viable Management Information System both within and outside further compounds the situation of this separateness. All resolutions are at the level of the Secretary with an approach of “compromising arbitration”. An environment of all round dissatisfaction and mutual distrust tends to prevail.

The Private sector has now been given access and opportunity to participate in the defence sector. This is still at the policy stage. Perceptions of stone walling by DPSUs prevail in the private sector. The lack of experience of the latter in matters military technology seems a good enough cause to keep them away from defence production.

The Kelkar, Rama Rao and the very recent Defence Expenditure Review committee have comprehensive pragmatic, cost effective recommendations to bring in much needed reforms in the defence sector. Top down political and bureaucratic directives to actualise these studies would go a long way in India moving ahead

The Clarion Call of the Present

An examination of the current status of India’s military technology complex would reveal that that the country needs to achieve near self reliance in critical areas of weaponry, engineering, electronics, and hardware.

Propeller shafts, tank and aircraft, ships engines, heavy guns, precision ammunition, networked surveillance systems, military transportation aircraft and the like all have to be imported. This in itself is understandable considering the fledgling nature of our evolution and the disparateness within our stable secular democracy. In fact the many things that have been achieved should encourage us to look ahead. More importantly the existing infrastructure, the enormous investment made thus far, the readiness of private industry participation make it possible for the country to cross the Rubicon of dependency to self dependency. Indianisation to indigenisation and finally becoming Indian is definitely possible within the next three decades.

This clarion call has to be heard, listened to and understood. The Government must bring together, the Armed Forces, DPSUs, the Ordnance factories, the private sector, the DRDO and the Private sector through the aegis of a Military industrial commission facilitated by CII/FICCI/CSIR.

Way Ahead

Way ahead steps should be;

Identification of Self reliant goals through priority perspective planning including R&D funding.

Establishing technology transfer paradigms and policy directives to all DPSUs. This could be from western and Russian sources.

Reviews of DPP- the Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) are evolving well through periodic reviews. It has the pragmatic potential of becoming a tipping point game changer in our defence technology becoming dominantly “Indian”

Inclusiveness- Melding military technology and civil technology as an enterprise needs to be proactively encouraged. Funding for this could be allotted within the defense budget. The DPP needs to spell out a charter of inclusiveness through a collegiate system that gives all stake holders a sense of security in their vertical expertise. The inhibiting “Either or Or” should be replaced by a “Both and And” bold strategy. The present approach of the Armed Forces in expecting and evaluating each DRDO system for full functional compliance needs to be urgently reviewed. The saying that often times the “best becomes the enemy of the good” must be realised by all defence technology players. Illustrative examples could be LCA Tejas, the ALH Dhruv, MBT Arjun, UAV Rustam, Akash Missile. These need to form part of the operational order of battle of the services even if they are not Staff Requirement compliant. The Armed Forces and the DRDO need to ensure that combined functional teams operate in the field. This needs to be in addition to the main operational requirements of the Army met from sources that are suitable. All such procurements must be on an open transparent participative basis. The acquisition, the trial and project teams of the Services must have DRDO/relevant DPSU/Private Industry participation. The present “Buy, Buy & Make, Make” policies must become expansive and not mutually limiting. This if managed well would enable wider access all round in a win-win approach. The biggest win would be in the transfer of technology understanding.

Institutionalised integration of military maintenance infrastructure with DPSUs, PSUs, Private sector is yet another imperative. It would be a salutary force multiplier. The military would become relatively freer to focus on its operational ethos. It would enable Indian industry to gain valuable defence technology insights. Synergy with understanding would also develop between the Public and private sector.

There is a need for operational review and implementation of the Kelkar, Rama Rao and Defence Expenditure Review Committee reports.

Another imperative is evaluation of defence technology status, shortfalls, and requirements from users as well as Indian OEMs.

Identification of targets on priority focus. Establishing combined project teams with targets and periodic review should become a charter of the Defence Acquisition Council. The Armed forces must commit to operationalise all Indian systems despite their limitations. These could be assigned experimental tasks and missions with scope for retrofit and rectification as the case may be. This would be very optimal in terms of learning while using.

Readying all production agencies to be capable of performance based logistics and work on front line units of the three services.

Enabling the services to have direct strong leverage in all DPSUs in terms of equipment, systems manufacture, specification quality assurance compliance and acceptance. Management boards need to be organised accordingly.

Salutary Effects

The above steps will convert the ‘No Where Road’ to ‘A Some Where Road’. It could be first made into a four lane road that allows a level playing field to the Indian route and private path with access also available to the import highway. This requires planning, process, and participation along with proportionate parity in equity.

Strategy of Technology Leapfrog

The foundation of our defence technology edifice is ready and strong. Rapid advances in science, materiel development, electronic-engineering fusion all point towards the advantages of adopting a strategy of technology leap frog. Reinventing the wheel is no longer needed as India is emerging out of the denial drought. The West woos us while the East engages us vigorously. France and Israel are good examples as are Russia. USA too has had success in India. All this highlights the availability of a span of technologies that can be adopted and adapted to become industrially and militarily Indian.

The Prescriptive Approach

Dynamics of defence technology is complex. It needs a simple strategy of Didactics, Direction, Determination, Drive, through the aegis of a Military Industrial Commission. This could be set up from existing entities like CII, FICCI, DRDO, DPSUs, Armed forces, Private and Public sector companies.
The Defence Acquisition Council, the DG Acquisition, the Chiefs/Vice/Deputy can all become part of the MIC (Military Industrial Commission). This could be tiered suitably for policy, planning, review and oversight.

Defence procurement procedures need to promulgate acceptance policy processes for indigenous equipment and systems, by the Indian Armed forces.

Creation of operational units in the three services to absorb all indigenized systems has to be mandated across the spectrum of organisation, operationalisation, infrastructure, participation and review.

The above should have no bearing on the current operational needs of the military. This needs urgent review of all “buy”,” buy” and make”, “make” procedures.

The Department of Defence Production, the DRDO and the Service headquarters need to be tasked to review existing relationship structures. Integration, involvement, information management mandates need to be promulgated. The Minister of State for Defence could be given this charter.

The Military Industrial Commission charter could be created from the findings and recommendations of the various committees set up by the Government within the last two decades.

Indigenization perspective planning must be factored within the armed forces Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans. In this must be included the overall internal and external security continuum. This would avoid duplication as well as bring in optimal synergy.

The list of Indian heavy industrial, engineering, electronics, accessories, automotive and manufacturing industries exporting equipment and systems to USA, Europe, China would readily reveal as to how these could be effective “Indian” in military technology. Instead of lamenting past omissions the country has to apply itself with energy in becoming truly Indian in our areas of operational needs.

Aero India and defence expositions are windows of opportunity for valuable technology transfers. Autonomy and accountability with set targets would enable Indian military technology to become a robust high technology complex.

A common management information grid bridging all the individual MIS domains should form part of MIC charter

Maximising Outside Resources

Existing tie ups with Russia, Israel, France, USA need to be intensified towards self reliance focused technology transfers. All these nations have well developed military industries. At the same time the relevance of the military in these regions is rapidly diminishing. Commercial interests would come into play. This is where India’s opportunity to maximise this has to come into play. It calls for a sanguine overview and formulation of pragmatic strategies for becoming Indian in our military technology.

The MIC should play an effective facilitation role in partnership with CII/FICCI/PVT/DPSU and the like.

Curtain Call

Metallurgy, science, technology, industry, security compulsions are interwoven into Indian military technology. We have had reasonable successes in space. We can have salutary results through dynamic management of our existing resources in the defence domain across pan India. We have to accept that the road to self reliance and independence has to start from interdependence and inter/intra learning.

The collateral spin off benefits in terms of HR, economics, development, home grown confidence and export potential are catalysts by themselves for India

The writing is on the wall. We all need to read and act upon this. India in the final analysis has to account for itself. We have to seriously look at Indianisation, Indigenisation, Integration, Industrialisation in defence technology.

Published Date : 27th february 2012

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