Workers of the major public sector undertakings in Bangalore held a rally yesterday against the UPA government’s efforts to usher in private investment in the defence sector. They questioned the decision to shortlist companies such as Infosys, Tatas and Larsen & Toubro that have little or no expertise in defence related matters as “Raksha Utpadan Ratnas”. And they said the government was deliberately diverting orders from PSUs such as Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, Bharat Earth Movers Limited to such private players.
Questions: Is the reported move to allow private players in defence a good move or is it fraught with danger to the nation’s sovereignty and self-reliance? On what basis were these companies shortlisted? Will the participation of private players bring in efficiency and better technology? Or will it result in the profitable defence PSU companies being pushed to the brink? Will the private players be able to muster the resources on their own, or will they enter into tieups with foreign partners, thereby threatening the nation’s security?
The “profitable defence PSUs” have contributed with one of the most professional armies in the world being stuck with some of the most third rate, obsolete equipment in the world.
Exhibit A: The Arjun Tank: Too heavy, too old, and unsuitable for the kind of conditions INdia has fought ALL its tank battles in: the desert. Not to mention delayed and expensive.
Result: We just bought Russian tanks anyway (like we always do) and spent more taxpayers money.
“Profitability” of a PSU is not an end in itself. It is profitable if it can show that it has come up with something different and useful and competed in an open and competitive market. Any fool can turn out a profit out of a monopoly.
The USA has private industry designing and building tanks. Some of the best designs have come out of private industry. Even the Soviets recognized the need for competition when they had multiple design bureaus for fighter aircraft. Israel, whose very existence is dependent on having absolutely top of the line military hardware (and military training) has extensive private participation in military technology.
As far as security is concerned, as recent events have shown, our babus and corrupt military officers have been compromising national security to foreign countries.
Why should a foreign partner threaten national security more than any of the following?
1. Corrupt Indian diplomats who spied against India
2. Officers who sold secrets from the Navy War Room to foreign powers
3. A “DRDO” which can’t produce a top of the line fighter or a tank after three decades of funding and expertise
4. A political party which actively goes out of the way to lobby for Chinese companies for sensitive contracts, but decries even remote efforts at friendly relations with the USA
5. Intelligence agencies whose effectiveness was matched by a goatherd with functioning eyes and ears (Kargil War)
6. A government with nothing resembling a coherent policy against Naxalism/Maoist movement.
7. An MP who believes he did nothing wrong by abetting and aiding illegal immigration using his diplomatic passport.
8. Members of ruling party who believe that security checks at airports are for other people. Relatives of members of ruling party who believe the same.
Contrast this with examples of foreign collaboration already existing in defence matters.
How was our national security compromised when we collaborated with the British, French and the Russians for most of our military technology? or for that matter Israel?
When we have to depend entirely on foreign material for our defence, aren’t we already ‘compromised’ going by the logic of this post?
I see nothing dangerous in allowing private players in the defence sector on a case-by-case basis. Not everything in the military is a secret!
Like Alok above, I think the record of PSU’s in defence has been patchy at best. Open competition will be much more efficient in the long run even if a certain amount of nepotism creeps in.
(I read the last para of the blog post and was half expecting to hear …”We’ll find out after the break!”)
There is a common joke in Bangalore that HAL spends more time and money running its huge fleet of buses and on providing lunch at 2Rs for its employees than on aeronautics related issues. A visit to HAL (or any of the defense orgns like ADE etc) at 4:30PM is worth it. You can see ALL the employees crowding near the gate to get out of the office.
Jet fighter plane was first built during the World war II. In India we are still not able to build a fighter of our own. The LCA is a more foreign than local. I think the only thing Indian in an LCA is the pilot. The LCA is already hopelessly out of date in this age of stealth fighters.
Also i wonder if any one remembers all those umpteen number of IRS satellites launched by ISRO. I wonder what ever happened to the data collected by these satellites. I am sure they are all locked up in a rusted almirah in the ISRO office – while thousands of farmers are perishing due to failed monsoons and lack of ground water (which I think was what these satellites should have helped in finding out).
These communists are just worried about their trade unions and dont care one bit to what happens to the country. They dont mind China building our ports but they dont want to help thousands of professionally qualified Indians who will get meaningful employment by private participation in Defense. Thousands of crores of Rupees is just being flushed down the toilet in the name of research.
Complex financial systems that manage and route billions of dollars are being built by Indian Engineers today. Indian companies today are capable and mature enough to compete with some of the most advanced companies of the world. All this is being achieved with absolutely no Government help unlike US Corporations which heavily depend on their government through their state department and embassies to arm twist countries around the world into giving concessions to US corporations. Or Chinese companies that heavily depend on their government for subsidies or for favorable labour laws.
Our Indian companies today are some of the best in the world and have rightfully earned their place through sheer professionalism and hard work. Unfortunately the government of India never seems to trust its own people to do a good job of anything. This lack of trust in its own citizenry by the govt is the reason why we have not been able to reach to our complete potential.
I hope Manmohan singh has the spine to stand up to the commies and put them in their place.
The most powerful country in the world today has been able to get where it is (militarily) because of firms like Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Thinking Machines, IBM, CRAY, etc. etc. etc. etc.
The point is, they have certain checks and balances in the US. There is no reason why India cannot do the same. PSUs are known to be notoriously incompetent and inefficient. Guys, if we aspire to be a superpower, we need to jettison some of our old-fashioned and quaint concepts.
I agree 100% with Alok – we buy all our stuff from foreigners today, so we’re already compromised as hell in terms of security.