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Self-Reliance in Defence Products

The self-reliance in defence products is opening business opportunities for small, medium as well as large scale enterprises. The indigenisation of defence products is an opportunity for start-ups to explore newer sectors. — Alok Singh


The invincible capability is the root of sustainability. The foundations of welfare for all are based on strong military capability. Only ‘Power’ can defend the truth. We are powerful enough to preserve ourselves despite repeated attacks by aggressors. Otherwise, weak leads the path to narrative building and such narratives are against the interest of the weak party. History is full of examples that whenever non-violence has been prioritising with respect to defending the truth, the empires has fallen. The fall of Nalanda University is the illustration that prioritising something else (for example Knowledge versus strength) over the defence capability provides an opportunity to the opponents to attack, destroy and push back the whole civilization.

A weak nation has never been or will ever be able to secure a fair share in the universal game of politics. The ultimate objective of a peaceful civilization is many years far away. It’s simply not possible without having access and capability to the best defence products and continuous up-gradation every moment. The technology is making the defence products outdated same way and at least at the same speed as it is making outdated other products like mobile phones. The role of artificial intelligence, the internet of things, semiconductor chips, and other newer materials are increasing day by day in consumer appliances and the same is true for defence products. The defence products include socks for the soldiers to submarines for nuclear weapons. We never know how early even nuclear weapons might become outdated.

The same is true for an individual. Swami Vivekananda advocated the physical strength of an individual above knowledge acquisition by an individual. Earlier the Doklam valley operations raised the credibility of dependence on non-indigenous communication system devices. The Galwan Valley clash with the Chinese troops is the latest provoking event for marching fast towards the goal of self-reliance in defence manufacturing.

The most important and permanently important factors for defending the nation are its people. The people need to be alert all the time to defend the motherland. They need to defend it in psychological warfare, educational warfare, civilization warfare, trade warfare and the newer avatars of all those warfare that emerge on a frequent basis.

The modern war is not about a battlefield having men, tanks and fire. It’s more about electronics uses than mechanical uses in the war machines. It’s more about precision than strength. Whichever machine has engaged electronics more in their functioning is getting outdated at a very fast speed. When the machines were more operating on the principles of mechanics the shelf life was relatively higher. The mechanic’s changes are relatively time taking to implement in comparison to electronics changes. Making changes in software is even lesser time taking. 

The self-reliance in defence products is opening business opportunities for small, medium as well as large scale enterprises. The indigenisation of defence products is an opportunity for start-ups to explore newer sectors. 

During the real-life constraint situation, the suppliers of defence products become unworthy of trust. Particularly, the defence products are such that it forces the buyer to acquire them from anywhere in the world at any price. The Kargil war of 1999 created such a situation for the government of India when they paid heavily to procure coffins from the international market. The intent was to get the defence product from anywhere in the world at any price but the perception of corruption in the procurement of coffins was an easy tool of politics within and outside the country. The then prime minister had to explain that during situations of emergency the price is not considered rather the product is considered. Coffins are not an assault rifle or not such a high-end product or spare parts but the country had to bear the cost. The logistics and lead time along with the necessity of the product forced the government to do such purchases. So, coffins are also a defence product. The list of defence product can be so lengthy that we have to figure out even the smallest and most simple products and be self-reliant in terms of manufacturing, continuous improvement as well as logistics and supply chain-related factors.

When everything fails the traditional way is the best. We have seen during the initial phase lockdown of covid-19 that when e-commerce companies couldn’t maintain their supply chain for essentials like vegetables, the people in big cities had to rely on the local vegetable vendors and many more such events happened. The technology-based system failed but the traditional system survived. Self-reliance in the defence system should start from childhood. Everyone should be capable of defending themselves. An individual needs to own physical strength to defend them. The self-defence training based on games like Taekwondo and Karat are ages old and are taught by various agencies everywhere, whether it be school or police forces. Right from the defence of an individual to the defence of the nation the preparations had to be such that it matches the latest threat and work in progress has to be in continuous monitoring with an objective to match the future threat.

There are nations whose economy thrives by selling defence products. The race of producing better and better defence products is the food for the survival of such economies. India needs to participate in this race. We have to engage our population and resources to make an individual capable to defend themselves and the nation capable to defend the world. Our philosophy is that the world is a family and we can’t disown the responsibility.

Everything can wait but not the defence capability. We even can’t rely on philosophies of boycott and say that we won’t use foreign defence products.  The non first use treatise is itself questionable.  The only alternative we have is to be self-reliant in defence systems, whether it is mind, machine or body.               

(Alok Singh is fellow of Indian Institute of Management Indore and currently is faculty of general management at NICMAR, Delhi-NCR Campus.)

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