Monday, February 25, 2008

Military-industrial complex in India?

"With private investment in defence, is there a risk of creating a military-industrial complex?" asks Businessworld in a survey. The select respondents, policy analysts and defence researchers, respond:

50% YES: With the growing interest of private players in defence, concerns regarding the creation of an influential lobby comprising the defence forces and the arms industry are surfacing. Some respondents believed that it is highly likely that such a lobby of the military forces and the industry might emerge, albeit in the distant future.

40% NO: Many respondents believed that after all these years of State control over defence without a justifiable level of advancement in the state of technology and an ever-burgeoning import bill, it is high time that the private sector stepped in. As for the possibility of the creation of a military-industrial complex, while some expressed faith in the integrity of senior defence officials, a few others said that even if such a power block is created at some point in the future, it won’t be able to wield much influence over the strategic decisions of the State that might endanger internal security or peace.

10% MAYBE: these respondents were of the view that a State-run MIC already exists in India. Another point that was brought up was that MICs emerge in countries with ‘expansionist’ agendas. India, on the other hand, is not as outwardly focused and is more concerned with protecting its territory.

This survey was prompted by the increased participation of private Indian Companies in the recent Defexpo (defence exhibition) held at Delhi, where companies like Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Larsen and Toubro, and Mahindra & Mahindra held their stalls.
AShok Leyland Stallion
Truck maker Ashok Leyland unveiled its the six-wheel drive Stallion 6x6 at the expo (with technology from Panhard of France). The Stallion has been developed specially for desert and semi-desert areas. It has a hydraulic hoist for self-loading and unloading of ammunition. Ashok Leyland also displayed the vehicle, FAT, which can move through deep sand and is for towing 155-mm artillery guns:
AShok Leyland FAT

Tata Group lead the Indian private sector at the expo with 15 of its companies in diverse businesses such as combat vehicles, special materials, and teleco- mmunication. Tata Motors had its multi-axle vehicle — Tata 8x8, equipped with tiltable steering and tiltable cabin:
Tata 8X8
The Tata LSV will be of particular interest because it is a home-designed, home-made vehicle vying for army’s order for 8,400 light specialist vehicles for use by the mechanised division. 1.2 tonne-payload LSV can carry more men and material than the traditional 500 kg-payload Mahindra jeeps and Ordnance Factory Board’s Jongas.

Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, in alliance with Urban Aeronautics, unveiled a model of a rotorless Vertical Take Off & Landing aircraft (VTOL) to be used as a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle):
Tata LSV is facing competition from Mahindra’s Axe. The vehicle won a lot of admiration when it was shown at the January Auto Expoin Delhi. This is another home-designed, home-made vehicle, albeit it uses a Mercedes engine:
Mahindra Axe

According to Brigadier (Retd) K.A. Hai, CEO of Mahindra Defence Systems, Axe has done rather well in army’s winter trials in the mountains of the north. He is hopeful that the vehicle would also pass muster in the desert of Rajasthan in the summer.

Mahindra will also introduce its new armoured vehicle, Marksman, and a military version of the Scorpio SUV at the expo. In fact, the company intends to replace its traditional jeeps with Scorpios as its standard transport vehicle for Indian army:
mahindra marksman
Meanwhile the government-owned BEL has signed a deal at the Defexpo:
Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) has signed a “term sheet” and two MoUs (memoranda of understanding) with three Israeli defence companies at the DEFEXPO, the international army and navy equipment exposition, held in New Delhi between February 16 and 19. These arrangements will enable the Israeli companies to meet their offset requirements.

A release issued by the company said that its “term sheet” with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd envisages the formation of a joint venture, which is to “encourage indigenous advanced technology capabilities of missile electronics and guidance technologies.” A BEL spokesperson explained that the “term sheet” provided for a “trial period” of one year. A review would then consider whether the joint venture would proceed.

BEL has also signed two MoUs, with Israel Aerospace Ltd-Malat., which will facilitate “joint working” in the area of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. The public sector company is to “undertake product support”, apart from manufacturing and supplying the designated sub-systems. This arrangement is meant to help the Israeli entity meet its offset obligations.

The PSU also signed an MoU with Elisra for “joint working for various airborne electronic warfare programmes for Indian defence requirement.”

So instead of a "military-industrial complex", we are likely to see healthy competition between private and public companies in the defence sector.