Vice Admiral Bimalendu Guha retired from the Indian Navy in 1995 as the Flag Officer, Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command. He had also been the Controller of Warship Production and Acquisition. He is presently engaged as an independent maritime consultant. Guha spoke to BE's Ellora De regarding the different implications of the ‘Make in India’ policy in the defence sector.
Q. What steps can cement ties between the Indian industries and the government to boost defence production?
A. Indian indigenous defence production has come a long way. I think it was initiated only in the 1960s, with the government focusing on indigenous development of military equipment and hardware. I think the problem is transparency gap that is holding back the efficiency in this segment. Such holding back practices can, at times, be linked to the security quotient. The defence public sector undertakings and the non-defence public sector undertakings, as well as some private players have been continually contributing towards the enhancement of this sector. It is essential that designers for defence products function closely with the end users. The whole process must be transparent. The lowest bidder of one production cycle may not be the lowest bidder for the next production cycle. However, in case of the upgradation of technology, concerned authorities should assure the continuity of the production cycle by involving all stake-holders.
Q. Do you think Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) should get greater financial and administrative autonomy?
A. I think the DRDO has enough autonomy. But it's falling short of the end user’s expectations. The research that the DRDO pursues is not to achieve the Nobel Peace prize. We must understand that its research is supposed to contribute to the Indian defence system.
Q. Is the department of defence production sufficiently primed to make the ‘Make in India’ programme successful?
A. Defence production today, except for the bureaucratic level, certainly has well-qualified professionals in India. But again, we do not have another A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who spearheaded our missile programme for decades. Incremental improvement in technology over a period of time should be the focus of defence research and production. If you ask me about the readiness of defence research and production in India, I regret to say we are yet to achieve a steady helm. We may have achieved the required efficiency in the production organisation but at the administrative level, there are still certain hiccups.
Q. Should the staff be given longer tenures to ensure continuity in defence related research?
A. Continuity factor in defence related researches is definitely essential for incremental improvement of military technology.
Q. Are the efforts to attain self-sufficiency enough?
A. My answer is no. We certainly require more public participation in this field. There are shipyards, which are operating efficiently but there are some shipyards, which have disappeared in spite of existing orders.
Q. What is the way ahead for the ‘Make in India’ initiative?
A. You can travel far if you believe in each other. You need to trust each other and be transparent. Do not be afraid of criticism. One must understand the nuances of the execution problem. Irrespective of the inputs the Indian government gets, a lot more needs to be done to implement faster growth of this sector. An Indian equipment manufacturer must get MSME support. The government is still not interacting with MSMEs to the required extent. There is some communication gap. Competition is always welcome. But the lowest bidder may not always give the expected end product. The main focus should be on the improvement in technology.