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Contemporary Technology Development is a Joint Responsibility

Need for participation of all stake holders in product innovation and upgrades.

It has been customary to condemn or criticise the indigenously developed product and technology for variety of reasons and from different quarters having their own interest in mind. Recently, the  known quality problems with 5.56mm INSAS rifle designed & developed by the DRDO in 1990's for the Indian Army (IA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were raised. When it was developed, it was contemporary to the then technology and its fire power was lauded by everyone including IA, however 25 years hence it is being compared with the present day technologies available with developed nations. Admitted INSAS is not a state of the art System in today's context, but certainly an indigenous product approved by services during time of its introduction.  The  quality related issues known over two decades to the services as users, they have shown lack of interaction for product improvement and production constraints.  The weapon system should have been going upgrade or technological upgradation with their contribution. For example, user's participation throughout the trials and evaluation, the DRDO could successfully design & develop a third generation Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun for the Indian Army. It was a major step towards self reliance as it was developed indigenously.

Let us admit the fact, as a nation we are not as tech savvy as the developed nations, in terms of Armament design and technology. The contemporary technology development leads to rapid obsolescence, making it difficult to maintain the capability to produce a comprehensive range of weapons independently, more so in a set up like Indian Defence Industrial Base.  Our current level of human and production capability are behind the product that we plan resulting into a “Build to Print” capability instead of the more logical "Build to Order" capability. This results into user's dissatisfaction with the product line, since he cross compares the capability of similar product line in adversary hand. The services also need to understand the existing technology level, absorption and production capability. The product design cannot come out from a wish list. Users draw QR from the foreign product  which they see in literature/ catalogues and compare indigenously developed products without being part of the design and development process. The technical parameters set as part of GSQR definition combine the best in the world in all aspects, without realizing that even theoretically, compromises in one factor have to be made to achieve higher limits in another variable factor. The concept to conduct pre development assessment of technology alternatives through user's active participation does not exist, either in terms of technology scrutiny or verification of the knowledge threshold of technology developers. The Indian scenario can change drastically with understanding of the development process and incremental upgrade of technology through indigenous base. The stakeholders participation, will enthuse the feeling pride in co-ownership in development by the production and users.

INSAS needed replacement as the Army has from sometime persistently complained regarding the inefficiency of Indian Small Arms System (INSAS) 5.56x39mm assault rifles. What needed to be done was to establish a development team for 5.56mm CQB carbines the multi-calibre assault rifles comprising of all stake holders as was done for 105 mm IFG weapon system.

To become self-reliant in defence production, besides policy tweaks we need  to involve Private industries and an entirely new mindset from all stakeholders. Though, the government on paper has gone all out to implement PPP model but unless they are allowed to enter the arena of armament production, nothing much can be achieved, just alone by the OFs as they are overburdened. If we are importing armaments, then why not permit Private sectors to participate in tandem with the OFs to accelerate not only the output capacity but also for state of the art technology. In any case certain categories of explosives like flares etc. are presently being manufactured by them. Given a chance the Indian private sector can deliver cheaper & better technology. Private sector defence industry manufacturers have expressed 'disappointment' over licensed manufacture of the imported AR's and the CQB carbines being undertaken by the OFB despite the Ministry of Defence's (MoDs) repeated assertions of privatising the country's military-industrial sector.

There is a need to change our mind set and make conscious efforts for a paradigm shift from the 'Buyer-Seller' relationship to that of a healthy 'Partnership' among all stakeholders. Users can not be considered as a buyer as they are one of the major stakeholders and hence we need a consortium approach between the users, industries, the DPSUs & the DRDO, and we not only need to share the responsibilities equally but also need to augment the channels of communication to ensure clear understanding.

Col (Retd.) Arun Kumar

Col (Retd.) Arun Kumar

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