Thursday, April 15, 2010

In defence, take your time but hurry

On the art of gun fighting, American Old West cowboy Wild Bill Hickock said, “Take your time in a hurry.” India’s defence procurement authorities would also do well to heed the legendary gunfighter’s advice. While defence bids need to be carefully scrutinised, decisions need to be made fast and contracts signed quickly, lest we lose out to other countries. With global annual military expenditure topping $1,500 billion, and even though every fiscal India’s defence ministry returns big amounts of the budget allocation back to the government, India is the largest emerging economy arms importers with the exception of China.

India also has a vast amount of unused defence production and development capability. We must ensure that this is fully utilised. This would require the support of armed forces, bureaucracy and industries, both in private and public sectors. Foreign tie-ups are a must in this day and age, but tech transfer and local production are equally essential. Following the 1999 Kargil War, India signed arms deals worth $50 billion in the span of a decade —for fighter planes, warships, tanks, missiles, radars etc. In the past three years alone, the defence ministry signed contracts worth Rs 1,35,000 crore. Purchases include jet fighters, warships, submarines, radars, tanks, missiles, weapon systems and platforms, mostly from France, Russia, Israel and the US. But the government really needs to loosen its FDI policy—which is stuck at 49% in the defence


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