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Limit defence imports: VK Singh (3/30/2012) 
New Delhi, Mar 30 (IBNS) Chief of army staff V.K. Singh on Friday called for reversing 70 per cent of the country’s defence requirements being met through imports and urged private sector to set up a strong production base to achieve the challenging target of 70 per cent localisation.

“With apparent weaknesses indigenous defence production and often very limited access to cutting-edge technologies, the idea of joint design and development as well as co-production needs greater analysis to fill the visible technological gap,” he said while addressing a conference organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

Singh said the brief experience of defence industrial production shows that while it started from the scratch, it has not only been able to learn and absorb various technologies but also produce complex systems locally. But domestic production still constitutes only 30 per cent of the overall requirements.

“The industry must analyse the offset policy to deal with complexities of defence production and partnership with global companies, and suggest measures for it to become more effective,” he said adding foreign companies may not be easily forthcoming to part with critical technologies.

However, enhancing technological and manufacturing thresholds will spread the costs of indigenous development and also provide funds crucial to sustain high-cost defence R & D. Increase in private public partnerships at this juncture will assist in achieving self-reliance, he said.

Vice chief of air staff K.K. Nohwar also said that due to limited domestic production, India’s current dependence on major global arms manufacturers is inevitable. The country is one of the largest importers of defence equipment in the world as the forces need to be equipped with state-of-the-art weapons.

Though private public partnerships and foreign direct investments in the sector have gained prominence in recent years, self-reliance must be maximised. India’s defence budget is about Rs 1.9 lakh crore or 2.14 per cent of the GDP. Nearly 40 per cent of this is spent annually on capital acquisitions.

Vice admiral (retd) P.C. Bhasin, who is chairman of ASSOCHAM defence committee, said nearly 100 billion dollars worth of defence imports are likely in the next ten years. The offsets figure could well be above 30 billion dollars. Implementation of this value of offsets is both a challenge and opportunity for foreign and domestic investors.

ASSOCHAM secretary general D.S. Rawat said any defence programme’s success or failure is because of the supply chain execution. It is precisely due to this that small and medium companies will play a critical role in the entire supply chain for aerospace and defence sector.

The country has been able to attract a meager Rs 18.6 crore in over ten years that defence sector opened up for foreign investments with a cap of 26 per cent.
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