Business & Defence

How To Make India World’s Leading Weapon Manufacturer?

Story Highlights
  • Only by adopting an integrated industrial, scientific, and educational approach will India be able to change itself from a defence importer to a defence producer.
  • A direct economic benefit is the reduction of imports, as capital goods account for 58-60% of our purchases from China, bridging the $69.4 billion trade gap with that country.

Only by adopting an integrated industrial, scientific, and educational approach will India be able to change itself from a defence importer to a defence producer. Maintaining a focus on industrial and scientific development has immediate implications for defence manufacture, strengthening the country’s techno-industrial capability to produce top-of-the-line weapons systems.

It is producing advanced mechanical and electrical machinery, capital goods (which account for the majority of our imports); increasing domestic manufacturing of engineering goods and components; pushing research and development as a national goal; providing subsidies or state-venture capitalists for micro, small, and medium enterprises with low-interest loans rather than just bank guarantees; supporting even struggling indigenous defence projects with high domestic content; and, finally, emboldening indigenous defence projects with high domestic content.

A direct economic benefit is the reduction of imports, as capital goods account for 58-60% of our purchases from China, bridging the $69.4 billion trade gap with that country. Second, encouraging an industrialised manufacturing-oriented economy that produces smaller complex components like as motors, actuators, gearboxes, and sensors that are employed in larger capital goods or even defence platforms has massive’multiplier’ impacts.

The government receives huge tax money from the companies and people it employs, who themselves create demand and set off economic activity, and which are typically manufactured by MSMEs — which already account for 60% of the GDP. In today’s Covid economy, a lack of aggregate demand has been the bane. These MSMEs can also generate high-precision components and sub-components that are often imported into jet engines or aerospace platforms.

Even marine engines have a lot of moving parts, and the entire machinery are currently imported for Indian-built warships, making them the platform’s most non-indigenous system. While Indian shipyards have long attempted to reduce their reliance on German and American marine engine manufacturers,

Making the ship’s subsystems and electronic systems in the country can turn it into a hub for supplying parts to big European engineering companies, leveraging our low labour costs and cheaper operational costs.

According to a survey by the State Bank of India (SBI), halving China’s imports, which include telecommunications equipment, solar cells, and, most crucially, electronic integrated circuits, may add $20 billion to India’s GDP. With the government pushing to build semiconductor fabrication units in India, it only makes sense to have a competitive advantage in microelectronics such as Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Substrates and System on Chips (SoC).

Given China’s difficulties in becoming fully self-sufficient in semiconductor fabrication due to its reliance on advanced Dutch-made Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) machines for forging chips in the 7 nanometer to 3 nanometer range, India should invest in developing its own fabrication techniques.

A coordinated government effort backed by a collaborative industry-academic strategy and engagement with defence experts can provide a secure and reliable supply of logic chips and semiconductors for modern weapons platforms. This isn’t even taking into account how native computer hardware lessens the likelihood of systems being hacked.

India is a strong country, not only a strong military, because it has an advanced industrialised economy. The former has the diplomatic advantages of effective soft power that sustains coalitions, giving for greater flexibility in achieving international objectives. China followed the same path as the United States, gaining economic development first and then ramping up military capabilities, putting it economically, technologically, and militarily second only to the United States.

Such a stage, however, cannot be reached without the full backing of the Indian Armed Forces, which must be on board with such long-term national objectives.

Persuading them to select comparatively weaker weapons systems will only serve to refine the defence manufacturing base, ensuring that the mistakes are not repeated. Involving them in the development of specific technologies ensures that platforms are more relevant to their operational and tactical requirements.

Even army and air force officers with technical backgrounds must be absorbed into Defence Public Sector Undertakings and private companies involved in the manufacture of tanks and aircraft, based on the Indian Navy’s indigenization efforts, where all of its shipyards are staffed with former navy men. Simply fusing and bridging the military-scientist industry gap can go a long way toward removing the numerous roadblocks to implementing indigenous defence technology.

A top-down strategy mandated by the political leadership will energise government departments and stakeholders to begin cooperating and pursuing defence indigenization.

While these are political decisions, a simple reality must first dawn: defence manufacture cannot be an aim in itself; it must be part of a greater endeavour toward industrial and economic development.

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