Indian aerospace industrial capabilities have thus far been dominated by a giant conglomerate – Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) – that have evolved through decades. HAL’s predecessor Walchand Hirachand Industries Limited was a privately owned aircraft manufacturing entity engaged primarily in repair and overhauling of British and Allied air assets, before being taken over by the government in the 1940s.
Frontline fourth-generation modern fighter Rafale, manufactured by the French major Dassault Aviation, was chosen as the winner in the global tender for 126 MMRCA for the Indian Air Force before the Modi government took over in 2014. The deal was shelved and subsequently replaced by the announcement of a new contract for the direct purchase of 36 Rafale at a cost of about INR 60,000 crore, the process for which has already been underway since 2015 and the contract signed in September 2016.
Defence deals or any commercial deals of aircraft acquisitions are mostly under the shroud of mystery globally. Hence, the so-called scandal surrounding the purchase of the Dassault Rafale should be taken with a pinch of salt. At the same time, it also needs to be kept in mind, that if such scandals have some iota of truth, then they have a capacity to become a death nail for the rulers.
Great leap forward for Indian defence necessitates resolute action from the apex.
A decade proves to be a short time for reforms in military affairs while a week is a long time in politics. However, surprise elements in Indian politics (the latest reshuffle in cabinet) notwithstanding, India appears to challenge conventional notions about military reforms, at least in initiating realms, if not in implementation and results thereafter. Results may vary but intents transcend regimes.
The decision to buy 36 Rafale fighters exposes the complexinstitutional mechanisms in defence procurement.
Animesh Roul (SSPC, Executive Director) "Child Soldiers Of India’s Myriad Mutinies", | DEFENCE AND SECURITY ALERT, November 2014.
In an interview with CNBC-TV18’s Latha Venkatesh and Sonia Shenoy, Deba Mohanty, Vice President, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict said that he was hopeful of more reforms beyond the move to hike FDI. Below is the edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18.
Latha Venkatesh: There was a lot of publicity for the move to allow 49 percent FDI for manufacturing defence equipment. Have you noticed any other reform measures and procedures that the new government has initiated?
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to the global manufacturers through his independence day speech on 15 August, 2014 – come, manufacture here, sell us and others (anywhere) – has generated varying degrees of attention in India and elsewhere. Whether such an avowal is a byproduct of a crafted political vision or a mere popular adventurism is a matter of debate.
At a time when irregularities in defence procurement deals have hit headlines in the media and thereby raised issues of probity and transparency in recent times, one can not help but wonder as to how the political parties and their leaders look at larger issues of probity in and concepts of national defence and security.