Defence `Make in India' stuck on `strategic partner' model, new panel to resolve issue

08 July 2016

The defence ministry has formed an internal committee to finalise the strategic partnership model to push the `Make in India' initiative in defence production, even as defence manufacturers in the private sector rued the ministry's failure to select strategic partners for defence manufacturing.

The committee, headed by director general (acquisition) in the defence ministry, has been asked to submit its report by 31 July. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for Friday.

The Dhirendra Singh Committee had, in July last year, proposed a strategic partnership model, under which the government was to select a private Indian defence firm to exclusively make a military platform for a specified period of time.

Subsequently, the defence ministry formed an expert committee headed by former DRDO chief VK Aatre to formulate the criteria for selection of strategic partners. Based on its report, defence minister Manohar Parrikar formed five sub-groups headed by top officials of private firms, to comment on the Aatre Committee report.

The five sub-groups made their presentations to the defence minister. However, the recommendations of the sub-groups were conflicting, reports said, adding that two of the of the sub-groups could not even agree upon a set of recommendations.

It may be noted that the principal secretary to the prime minister has been holding periodic review meetings with the industry and defence ministry officials to give a push to defence manufacturing under Make in India ever since the BJP government came to power.

The result is that, as of now, virtually no orders have been placed by the defence ministry on the private sector so far.

''The new internal committee has been made to study these presentations, reconcile the differences and come with a final proposal,'' said a government source. Besides DG (acquisition), the committee has the secretary (defence finance), joint secretary (industrial cooperation), a representative from the Defence Research and Development Organisation and senior officials of the three defence services.

But private Indian defence manufacturers are worried about the delays already caused in the process. They say the ministry is causing further delays to ongoning defence acquisition programmes by chasing the concept of strategic partnership.

As of now, various strategic defence production programmews such as the Naval Utility Hellicopters, P-75(I) submarines, recce and surveillance helicopters and combat aircraft are all stuck, industry officials point out.

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