Energising indian aerospace industry: have we moved?
Events in India’s neighborhood have been altering geopolitical relationships with increasing regularity. Thus, while the US executed its ‘pivot’ to Asia to balance China’s aggressive posture in South East Asia, the launch of the One Belt One Road initiative by the latter has taken power competition to a new level. America’s new policies are still in a state of flux due the ‘America First’ declaration by the US administration. While strengthening Indo-US ties, New Delhi has re emphasised its long standing relationship with Russia even as it accelerates its ‘Make in India’ initiative with the aim of stimulating growth and generating employment. An unstated agenda of the ‘Make in India’ policy is born of the hope that it would, in the process, galvanise Indian entrepreneurship to innovate and generate in-house design and reduce dependence on foreign entities; this is especially true in defence R&D and manufacturing to retain strategic autonomy.
India is expected to spend almost 100 billion USD for its armed forces in the next five years, of which almost 20 billion USD are likely to be spent on military aircraft alone. For many years to come, India would continue to be a net importer, especially of cutting edge technology and products. Hence, arms manufacturers are looking expectantly at entering the Indian market for the opportunities accorded in its defence imports, especially in the aerospace sector, owing primarily to its stated intent of modernising its armed forces under the Make in India initiative; an additional incentive is the expected spinoff in the civil aviation sector.
The Make in India process, initiated more than two years ago, was part of a systemic drive with the stated intent of promoting indigenous manufacturing, innovation and R&D; the Government’s intent has been driving policies and acquisitions ever since. The policy support has been through the revised Defence Procurement Procedure (2016), Draft Defence Production Policy 2018 and Technology Perspective Capability Roadmap (TPCR) 2018. While budget constraints remain, and will always be crucial decision making inputs, has the private industry got a firm footing in the Aerospace &Defence (A&D) sector? Or, are the success stories limited to just the big players and not the MSMEs, who are the crucial drivers of growth of any indigenous industry? Is there adequate interaction between the DPSUs, big commercial houses and the MSMEs, as mandated by the Government? Have the plethora of DRDO establishments and laboratories started producing the results expected of them? Amidst all these uncertainties, the initiative shown by some State Governments to set up defence parks is indeed encouraging.
To discuss these issues, that have a vital bearing on the Government’s drive to kick-start an indigenous defence industry, the Centre for Air Power Studies and Confederation of Indian Industry /Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, in association with the Indian Air Force, are organising the ‘13th International Conference on Energising Indian Aerospace Industry: Have We Moved?’ The Conference will be inaugurated by the Chief of the Air Staff and will bring together Government officials, serving Armed Forces officers, captains of industry (both Indian and foreign), MSMEs, certification agencies, academics and the users to discuss and arrive at action points that could assist policy makers. The event will be conducted over a day and a half at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi on September 05-06, 2018.