India’s defence electronics sector needs to walk on a unified path

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By Vanisha Joseph

‘United we stand, divided we fall!’ Rightly said—the hot opportunities in the defence sector and the conducive environment being created by the government, will help the Indian defence and strategic electronics industry walk on a unified path. The Indian strategic electronics or defence electronics sector is on the upswing, growing from Rs 57 billion in 2007-08 to Rs 69 billion in 2008-09—a growth rate of 21 per cent. The defence sector embarking on the road to modernisation and automation is a crucial driver for its growth. Yet, technological sovereignty and self reliance remain a distant dream for Indian defence. Nearly 70 per cent of the defence electronics and IT equipment/solutions are imported and a meagre 30 per cent is made indigenously. So, what must be done to reverse this state of affairs and help the Indian defence establishment achieve technological self reliance?

“There is no substitute to indigenisation to attain technological sovereignty and self reliance, which is crucial for our country’s security. The government is ushering in greater transparency and speed to procedures by the recent amendments to the defence offset policy (revised in 2008 and 2009), which shows a growing preference in strategic sourcing to the domestic route over import of technology, etc. Yet, serious challenges remain with respect to defence security, and to achieve this, all stakeholders would have to be team players,” said, M M Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defence, Government of India, while speaking at the inaugural session of ELCINA’s Strategic Electronics Summit (SES) held in Bengaluru recently.

Opportunities in electronics business

Electronics has been a part and parcel of all facets of warfare. In such a situation, the Indian defence forces are calling for participation from Indian players to eventually attain technology self sufficiency. “We are today facing new threats like cyber intrusion, which make confidentiality, secrecy, etc, prerequisites for the solutions we adopt. We need reliable, secure and indigenous communication systems for defence operations, including embedded hardware and software. And there is no reason why this can’t be done given the tech savvy manpower we have and necessary policy changes to promote indigenisation. We hope private players will adopt new initiatives, R&D and public private collaborative business models, to enhance their participation and help India attain self sufficiency in defence,” said Lt General Partha Mohapatra, signal officer in chief, Army HQ, at SES, which was attended by over 60 participating companies and 150 delegates.

Presently, three projects of the Indian army—NFS or project Kranti, tactical communication system (TCS) and defence communication network (DCN)—are crucial communication projects that will provide great impetus and opportunity to IT and electronics industry in India.

Government’s support

The government has been helping in strengthening the bond between defence and Indian strategic electronics industry. “Defence and aerospace electronics are fast growing sectors due to the offset policy, high domestic demand, cost advantages, talent base and mature IT industry. It is working further in creating policies to help the industry work with technological requirements, to build expertise and manufacturing abilities, and enter into joint ventures with foreign firms to meet the demands of our forces,” said Minister Pallam Raju.

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