India — Defence Transformation: A Case For Mind Over Matter

Ser­vice Head­quar­ters need to reflect upon their new oper­a­tional real­i­ties. Unfor­tu­nate­ly growth in Ser­vice Head­quar­ters so far, has been incre­men­tal and not as part of any func­tion­al reform. For exam­ple, the MO Direc­torate of our Army is still organ­ised to fight con­ven­tion­al oper­a­tions only. They have not re-organ­ised them­selves to reflect a full spec­trum oper­a­tional real­i­ty. They have also not cre­at­ed a Joint Oper­a­tional Plan­ning group to reflect their desire to cre­ate a joint war fight­ing par­a­digm. Addi­tion­al­ly, there is a require­ment to cre­ate a “whole of gov­ern­ment” real time response mech­a­nism based on net­works and data bases rather than the out­dat­ed method of hold­ing time wast­ing series of con­fer­ences. Our organ­i­sa­tions reflect our war fight­ing meth­ods and are indica­tive of our resolve to respond effi­cient­ly and effec­tive­ly. All this is a nat­ur­al part of our deterrence.

“Gov­ern­ment Response” should be inter­nal­ly applied as well in order to cre­ate” Whole of Ser­vice” and ”Joint Ser­vices” response. Equip­ment and pro­cure­ment Fore­cast­ing: All agen­cies deal­ing with pro­cure­ment, require time to car­ry out their func­tions. At the present junc­ture, agen­cies are informed the day a ser­vice reg­is­ters its desire for procur­ing an item with HQ IDS. The process there­after takes about 3–4 years till the con­tract is signed. In order to cut short this time, the Rev­enue and Cap­i­tal Acqui­si­tion aspects need to be dove­tailed. Only then can one derive which sys­tem is due for dein­duc­tion at least 5–7 years and more, pri­or to the request being for­mal­ly reg­is­tered. This would help to make the R and D and pro­cure­ment cycle more efficient.

Black­list­ing: After the infa­mous Bofors case, we have become hyper sen­si­tive to aspects of defence com­mis­sions and have begun to black­list com­pa­nies wher­ev­er we have come to know of some aspects of these pay­ments. In hind­sight, we can see, that in a num­ber of cas­es we have had major deals with for­eign com­pa­nies in which we had a “Buy” and a “Make” com­po­nent the scan­dal erupt­ed once the “Buy” com­po­nent had been exe­cut­ed and before the trans­fer of tech­nol­o­gy was to be made. Black­list­ing the com­pa­ny at this stage denied us the tech­nol­o­gy we were seek­ing. It is there­fore for con­sid­er­a­tion whether we ban the com­pa­ny from future con­tracts, but go through the exe­cu­tion in full of the con­tract which we have signed. After all obtain­ing the con­tract­ed tech­nol­o­gy for the coun­try is cen­tral and not our clean images. Black­list­ing from future con­tracts meets all our clean image needs and yet gets us our technology.

Match­ing capac­i­ties to require­ments: There is a need to tai­lor our out­puts with the require­ment. Extra­ne­ous issues relat­ed to employ­ment and long term jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of organ­i­sa­tion­al struc­tures’ exis­tence should not be the over­rid­ing fac­tors. For exam­ple, it is a known fact that there has been an expo­nen­tial growth in encryp­tion demand. SAG is inca­pable of meet­ing the demand for algo­rithms. No expan­sion has been affect­ed to increase capac­i­ty. Our inabil­i­ty to meet the require­ment of ser­vices com­pro­mis­es secu­ri­ty, since it forces the user to com­mu­ni­cate in plain or resort to low grade pub­lic keys. 

List­ing the PSUs on the stock exchange with a 51 per cent gov­ern­ment and 49 per cent pub­lic hold­ing. This will help in keep­ing gov­ern­ment hold over the unit, but will bring agili­ty due to pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. Cap­i­tal so gen­er­at­ed can be used for mod­erni­sa­tion of the PSU or set­ting up addi­tion­al capacity

Equip­ment pro­file: Usu­al­ly ser­vices have on their itin­er­ary a mix­ture of equip­ment. Broad­ly equip­ment fol­lows a 30:40:30 rule. 30 per cent of new equip­ment being induct­ed, 40 per cent of con­tem­po­rary equip­ment and 30 per cent of obso­lete equip­ment await­ing de-induc­tion. Pro­cure­ment efforts need to be focused to ensure that this ratio is not upset because it will have a detri­men­tal effect on our war fight­ing abilities.

Con­tin­u­ous tech-devel­op­ment cycle: There is a need to under­stand that tech­nol­o­gy moves incre­men­tal­ly because knowl­edge is dou­bling every five years. The log­jam between the shift­ing goal­post made by DRDO and users dis­sat­is­fac­tion reg­is­tered by the users, needs to be bro­ken. This can be done if we adopt the “con­tin­u­ous tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment cycle” and pro­duce a chain of sub­se­quent mod­els which account for 20 per cent growth in tech­nol­o­gy. The users will most cer­tain­ly go along with this approach. 

Trans­fer of tech­nol­o­gy: There is a need to be cir­cum­spect in this area. When we seek tech­nol­o­gy, we need to remem­ber that the recip­i­ent has to pay expo­nen­tial­ly for it. When we see the pace of change and com­pare it with the fact that tech­nolo­gies which are usu­al­ly on sale are ones that are avail­able off the shelf it means that they are already 10–15 years old. Once we fol­low the CKD / SKD route we take anoth­er 10–15 years before reach­ing the tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer stage. We would there­fore be pay­ing for tech­nol­o­gy which is 25–30 years old. 

We there­fore require to short­en the tech­nol­o­gy absorp­tion route. This is pos­si­ble by adopt­ing the fol­low­ing means: 

  • Seek tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer as an excep­tion­al case.
  • Tech­nol­o­gy trans­ferred should have an elab­o­rate R and D plan for its absorp­tion as well as to make it grow into sub­se­quent systems.
  • Adopt con­cur­rent man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tice in place of CKD / SKD route.
  • This method calls for 

    • For­eign purchase.
    • Estab­lish­ment of fac­to­ry in India imme­di­ate­ly after sign­ing the con­tract in order to com­mence con­cur­rent manufacture.
    • Cor­po­ra­tise man­u­fac­tur­ing of all major war fight­ing weapon sys­tems. Tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer should be made to these cor­po­ra­tised enti­ties which are charged with
    • Tech­nol­o­gy absorption.
    • Mid-life upgradation.
    • Spare parts manufacture.
    • Sub­se­quent models.

Lever­ag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor: There is a need to cre­ate a “whole of defence capa­bil­i­ty” based on PSUs, OFBs and pri­vate sec­tor indus­tries. Since our pri­vate sec­tor indus­try is yet in the nascent stage and our PSUs / OFBs have been overt­ly pro­tect­ed we have a prob­lem. The prob­lem calls for ener­gis­ing our PSUs / OFBs for com­pet­i­tive­ness and for nur­tur­ing the nascent capa­bil­i­ties in the pri­vate sec­tor. This can be done by the fol­low­ing means:

List­ing the PSUs on the stock exchange with a 51 per cent gov­ern­ment and 49 per cent pub­lic hold­ing. This will help in keep­ing gov­ern­ment hold over the unit, but will bring agili­ty due to pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion. Cap­i­tal so gen­er­at­ed can be used for mod­erni­sa­tion of the PSU or set­ting up addi­tion­al capac­i­ty. Group and cor­po­ra­tise the OFBs on lines of PSUs described above.

Aban­don the RUR route and encour­age the pri­vate sec­tor to form con­sor­tia for land sys­tems, mar­itime sys­tems, aero­space sys­tems, IT sys­tems, R and D and space sys­tems. These con­sor­tia can draw-in the small scale indus­tries as sub-con­trac­tors on as required basis. MoD should deal only with these con­sor­tia. The con­sor­tia route cuts short the evo­lu­tion cycle of defence indus­try con­sid­er­ably. Glob­al­ly the world has gone from sin­gle com­pa­ny man­u­fac­tur­ing to con­sor­tia man­u­fac­tur­ing, since no sin­gle com­pa­ny in the West had the tech­nol­o­gy or finan­cial clout to man­u­fac­ture the present day’s sophis­ti­cat­ed machines. By encour­ag­ing our indus­try to form con­sor­tia we will help them to evolve quickly.


Com­pe­ti­tion between var­i­ous sec­tors needs to be engi­neered / encour­aged for obtain­ing bet­ter effi­cien­cy. Even a com­mu­nist coun­try like Chi­na has split their sin­gle cor­po­ra­tions in order to gen­er­ate com­pe­ti­tion. A con­cert­ed effort needs to be launched to ensure a lev­el play­ing fields and curb unhealthy monop­o­lis­tic ten­den­cies in the defence indus­tri­al base.


There is an ever present need for effect­ing change in any organ­i­sa­tion in order to remain con­tem­po­rary. Change begins in the mind and then gets trans­lat­ed into action, there­fore it can be safe­ly called a “mind over mat­ter” issue. Tra­di­tion­al­ly we have been very weak at con­cep­tu­al­is­ing and doc­tri­nal aspects. These must lead and guide our actions so that these con­form to a well thought out plan and design and our actions are not sim­ply knee-jerk and reactive.

About the Author
Lt Gen Hard­ev Singh Lid­der PVSM, UYSM, YSM, VSM (retd)
The writer was com­mis­sioned in Indi­an Army in Decem­ber 1967 in the elite Para­chute Reg­i­ment. A Spe­cial Forces offi­cer, he has exten­sive expe­ri­ence of Sub-con­ven­tion­al War­fare. He is a grad­u­ate of Defence Ser­vices Staff Col­lege and Nation­al Defence Col­lege. He has expe­ri­ence of mul­ti­far­i­ous instruc­tion­al, staff and com­mand assign­ments. He has been Mil­i­tary Liai­son Offi­cer in Indi­an Embassy at Colom­bo and was Defence Mil­i­tary Advis­er in Embassy of India at Wash­ing­ton DC when momen­tous changes in Indo-US rela­tions began to take shape. He hung his uni­form as the CISCIDS

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