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India’s over reliance on imports has left it susceptible to geopolitical pressures and resulted in large currency outflows. The Indian government has been working to lessen its reliance on imports from outside and achieve self-sufficiency in the defence industry as a means of resolving this issue.

India has been attempting to steadily increase its defence industry self-sufficiency for many decades, albeit with mixed success. The expansion of the domestic defence sector, which is heavily dependent on imports of ammunition, missile systems, and other armaments, has only recently gotten the necessary attention. An emphasis was placed on the significance of minimising external dependence in all areas, including defence, with the introduction of the new policy of assuring self-sufficiency in the form of atmanirbharta (Self-Reliance).

The campaign’s goal was to encourage people to buy, produce, and provide locally made goods as part of a strategy change to support them.

With the founding of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958, India began its path towards military self-sufficiency. The DRDO’s main goal was to create homegrown technologies to meet the nation’s defence requirements. The DRDO has achieved tremendous advancements in the creation of vital defence technologies like missiles, aircraft, and radars over the years. The Indian government has started a number of projects recently to encourage military industry self-reliance.

The ‘Make in India’ programme is one such project that tries to encourage indigenous production of defence gear. Under this initiative, domestic industries are urged to start producing defence products while foreign defence corporations are encouraged to establish manufacturing facilities in India. The Strategic Partnership Model (SPM), which seeks to encourage the growth of a domestic defence sector, is another significant project.

According to this concept, the government chooses key partners for particular defence programmes and offers them ongoing assistance to build domestic capabilities. The SPM is anticipated to be a key factor in India’s development of a strong domestic military sector.

In order to support domestic design, development, and manufacturing of defence equipment, governments have implemented a number of legislative initiatives. Priority has been given to the purchase of capital items of the Buy Indian (IDDM) category from domestic providers under the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 in order to promote defence industry and technology.

A ban on imports past the deadlines stated against them has been imposed on a total of 411 services and 3,738 DPSUs through the notification of 4 Positive Indigenization Lists and 3 Positive Indigenization Lists, respectively. With the help of these steps, the defence sector is now able to produce a wide range of high-end necessities, including tanks, fighter planes, armoured vehicles, warships, submarines, special-purpose steels, and various types of ammunition. In addition to this, other actions done include:

Simplified Licencing procedure: With a single-window approval approach and longer validity periods, the government has streamlined the licencing procedure to promote investment and FDI. With the help of programmes like the DefSpace Mission and the iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) project, MSMEs and DPSUs have been more actively involved in the development of new technologies and innovations in the defence and aerospace industries.

Defence Industrial Corridors: The government has developed Defence Industrial Corridors in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, as well as the SRIJAN site. These corridors draw investments to the aerospace and military industries, promoting technology transfer and indigenization of the MSME sector.

Collaborative Ecosystem: The defensive ecosystem has been revitalised by reorganising public defence businesses and fortifying linkages with educational institutions and research organisations. Budgets for industry-led R&D have received more funding, which has encouraged innovation and cooperation. An environment that is favourable of technological improvements has been fostered through regular interactions with MSMEs, startups, academia, and innovators.

India has made considerable progress in the development of essential defensive technology. The country’s advancement is demonstrated by the effective design and testing of missile systems like Agni, Prithvi, and BrahMos. India has also made significant advancements in the development of aircraft, such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The locally obtainable resources are used to make the indigenously manufactured equipment. They gain the ability to compete on price on a global scale, and it also makes it easier for MSMEs to be integrated into the global supply chain.

The indigenization of various defence goods has been a goal for the Indian government in order to attain “Aatmanirbharta” (self-reliance), according to the Minister of State for Defence in a written response to Rajya Sabha member Tiruchi Siva on March 13. According to the minister, as of 6 March 2023, the total value of defence exports was Rs. 13,399 crores. The data was Rs. 12,815 crores for 2021–22 and Rs. 8,435 crores for 2020–21.

By 2024–2025, India wants to export $5 billion worth of defence goods annually. According to sources, India is now in negotiations with a number of nations to sell a number of its domestic products, including the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

Defence exports have benefited from the private sector contributions of about 50 Indian businesses. Italy, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Russia, France, Nepal, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Israel, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Poland, Spain, and Chile are a few of the top export destinations for defence equipment. Personal protective equipment, offshore patrol vessels, ALH helicopters, SU avionics, Bharati radios, coastal surveillance systems, Kavach MoD II launchers, FCS, spare parts for radar, electronic systems, and light engineering mechanical parts are among the primary defence products exported.

Weapon Simulators, Tear Gas Launchers, Torpedo Loading Mechanisms, Alarm Monitoring & Control, Night Vision Monocular & Binocular, Light Weight Torpedo & Fire Control Systems, Armoured Protection Vehicles, Weapons Locating Radar, HF Radio, Coastal Surveillance Radar, etc. are some of the other important defence equipment exported over the past five years.

On October 19, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement on the 101-item “Fourth Positive Indigenisation List” at the Def Expo 2022 opening ceremony in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. According to the guidelines provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, every item on the lists would be purchased from domestic suppliers. This list serves as a constant reminder to rely on one’s own resources for defence. The government has a bold plan to buy 101 additional defence items from domestic suppliers by 2032.

This list includes extremely complicated systems, sensors, weapons, and ammo. In the next five to ten years, Indian industry is expected to get orders worth more than $175 billion, according to preliminary estimates. By luring new investment into technology and manufacturing capabilities, this would further boost the potential of domestic research and development.

India has a long way to go before being self-sufficient in the defence industry, but it has made great strides in recent years. India’s reliance on imports has decreased because to government initiatives to support domestic production and the advancement of vital technologies. Overall, everyone can see the fruits of the efforts that were made. From 2018–19 to 202–21, the cost of purchasing defence equipment from foreign sources decreased from 46% to 36%. In such a brief time, the The country has been able to increase its production, manufacturing, and exporting processes while also saving money and offering alternative supply chains. India used to be one of the biggest weapons importers, but these days the country is moving quickly towards being a significant supplier of defence goods.

India will become more safe because to its increased defence sector self-reliance, which will also significantly strengthen its economy. Data demonstrating substantial advancement suggest that India’s drive of self-reliance in the defence sector has produced extraordinary outcomes. Initiatives, legislative changes, and development projects by the government have created a solid base for the growth of indigenous defence production and technology.

However, obstacles still exist, such as dealing with structural and administrative problems to obtain total independence. To further increase defence production and position India as a leader in the world of defence manufacture, the government must maintain pace and overcome lingering issues. India can achieve total self-reliance in the defence sector and evolve into a strong and independent country by investing more money in research and development, encouraging collaboration, and streamlining policies.

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