By Anupama Airy
India’s Deputy Chief of Army Staff (P&S), Lt Gen Subrata Saha PVSM, UYSM, YSM, VSM**, who spearheaded Indian Army’s plans to modernise military capabilities through indigenous solutions retires today on March 31, 2017. At DefenceAviationPost.com, while we wish Lt Gen Saha a great success in all his future endeavours, we also revisit one of our articles that we did recently on him.
To “Win Indian Wars With Indian Solutions, ” is a phrase coined by Lt Gen Saha and was first explained by him to DefenceAviationPost.com in an interview last year. His strategy which is essentially driven by a strong interactive process involving Academia – Industry- Army has fast captured the imagination of all stakeholders as also the attention of the media.
Beginning 2016, Lt Gen Saha started the process by holding regular interactions with the industry in industrial hubs across the country. Industry at every level from top corporates to MSMEs was given an opportunity to interact with the Indian Army through a series of bilateral interactions.
In the past one and a half years, the Indian Army launched a major outreach program led by Lt Gen Saha to engage with the Industry and the Academia. As many as 20 Army-Industry bilateral interactive sessions have been held with close to 2000 entities in attendance (that included large, medium, small, MSMEs and start-ups).
On The Need to Involve Academia along with the industry, Gen Saha explained, “By the time we did the third or fourth Army-Industry interaction, we realised that this may provide for immediate requirements, for the long term and to be truly indigenous we need to involve the Academia.”
In addition to 20 bilateral interactions, more than 10 trilateral Academia-Industry-Army interactions have taken place with over 700 Professors and Scholars from IIT Bombay, Madras, Gandhinagar, Kharagpur, IISC Bangalore, PSG Coimbatore, Amrita University, Coimbatore and IIT Ropar and Bhubaneswar.
Six MoUs have been signed by the Indian Army till date with top academic institutions of the country including IIT Madras, Gandhinagar, Mumbai, Kharagpur, Gandhinagar and Bhubaneshwar. “We are getting some high quality solutions from the Academia,” Gen Saha said.
Around the middle of 2016, Lt Gen Saha also started with the field trips of industry and academia to border locations where there was heavy deployment of Indian forces and where the real challenges existed. This move helped in providing a first hand experience to the industry and academia on the issues faced by the Indian Army at forward locations.
For the first time perhaps in the history of the Indian Army, field visits were undertaken in June 2016 by a group of Professors, Ph D Scholars and Industrialists to forward locations in Kashmir valley followed by the Sikkim Sector in November last year.
A group of Professors, Scholars and Industry representatives recently visited forward areas in Ladakh region from March 13 to 18, to get a first hand understanding of problems in the field requiring scientific and technological solutions. A field visit was also organised in the Desert and Rann of Kutch Sector,all of which yielded some good solutions and ideas.
Equipment were laid out for hands on experience and life cycle sustenance solutions at Ahmednagar in July, Coimbatore in August, Gopalpur in October and Devlali in January this year. A comprehensive firepower display was also conducted at Devlali, Nashik.
“Keeping this aim in view through 2016 and beyond the Army has undertaken this extensive outreach program,” Gen Saha said, adding that these events provided an exclusive opportunity to the industry and academia representatives to understand the requirements and interact with the field commanders of Indian Army and seek clarifications directly from the user.
Expectations from the Academia and Industry To win India’s Wars with Indian Solutions.
With such a huge domestic market, large imports of defence equipments is not helping anyone. Therefore, to transform to indigenous from import, Gen Saha says that the collaboration between the User ie Army – Industry – Academia is an imperative.
To instutionalise the process, India’s former Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar accorded an in-principle approval for setting up of an Army Design Bureau (ADB) in August 2016. Within days on 31 August ADB inaugurated by the former COAS Gen Dalbir Singh then COAS.
It may be noted here that Army Design Bureau (ADB) is the interface of the Indian Army that aims to provide a better understanding of the Army’s requirements to the academia, research organisations and the industry for developing high tech defence products.
ADB has also been established as a “single point contact” and a platform for an interaction between the army and academia, the defence public sector units (PSU), private players to understand the requirements of the army.
On the phrase of Winning Indian Wars with Indian solutions, he explained, “We are fighting a proxy war whose intensity, complexity and dimensions are increasing.” He added that future wars are envisaged to be hybrid. He said that while the Line of Actual Control is a different confrontation, the Line of Control is a 24×7 and 365 days eyeball to eyeball contact configuration with adversary.
“These are typically Indian battlefield conditions which require Indian solutions. Adaptations are not best solutions,” he explained.
Lt Gen Saha and his team of officers have also brought out two volumes on the problem statements or the “felt needs” of the Indian Army, for which the latter is seeking indigenous solutions from the domestic industry and the academia. The First Volume of Compendium of Problem Statements was released by Ministry of Defence on 5 December last year. Recently the second volume of the Compendium of Problem Statements listing 28 “Felt Needs” for the Indian Army was released by the COAS, Gen Bipin Rawat. These two reports summarises the complete requirements of the Indian Army for which solutions are being sought.
The problems highlighted in the twp compendiums by ADB ranges from appropriately designed light-weight cold protection clothing, bullet-proof jackets, night vision devices, robots, pressure and temperature regulated modular cabins, smart sensors /detection devices, survival kits, body wellness analysers/detectors worn by soldiers in high altitude, night vision devices, composite helmets and nano surveillance aerial vehicles.
On The Roadmap Ahead
“In the near future we expect an impetus to Make projects under DPP 2016; Research and Development under ATB and TDF; An acceleration in procurement with focus on IDDM.”
In 10 years, Gen Saha added that he hopes to see a transformation from:
⁃ Equipping to developing capability.
⁃ Products to solutions
⁃ Strong research capabilities
⁃ Import to export.
“While improving the legacy, we would recommend developing Smart Defence Industrial Complex built around Anchor Industries and Anchor Technological Institutes.”
Explaining this Gen Saha said, the Anchor Technological Institute should emphasise on incubation, research and skill; the anchor Industry should focus on integration and creating subsidiaries with emphasis on quality and the User should be collaborating through think tanks, directly, trial parks, knowledge sharing.
In a Nut-Shell : “Having suggested a highly possible road map, we are confident that with your collaboration, ‘We can Win India’s Wars with Indian Solutions,” he added.