Col Ashwani Sharma (Retd)


Self-reliance in defence ought to be every nation’s aspiration. Secure borders and a safe internal environment provide the country with the necessary freedom and environment to deploy and utilise its resources for development, prosperity and well-being of its people.  Achieving self-reliance, however, is a tricky matter as its very definition can have several connotations for it includes diverse factors like the human resource, military hardware, geographical imperatives, infrastructure development and financial independence etc – the list is long. And to stitch them all together you need a doctrine to secure the nation. Almost two and a half millennia ago, Kautilya wrote the ‘Arthashastra’ which guided Emperor Chandragupta to create a massive empire around 320 BCE. ‘Niti and Shaurya’ were the guiding principles of the military doctrine which took into account the wisdom contained in the Bhagwad Gita and tenets of Dharmayudhha as contained in the Rig Veda. A country with such a rich legacy ought to have its own modern day doctrine for defence and security. It must be based on ‘Niti and Shaurya’ as it gels well with our DNA. Military doctrine must flow through a national strategy and address several policy issues concerning, infrastructure development, military industrial complex, method of warfighting and supporting HR policies and training. Certain aspects of the policy must be reviewed periodically in order to remain contemporary and keep pace with emerging technologies and geopolitical scenarios.

Prime Minister Modi accelerated the indigenisation process through successive slogans like ‘Make in India’, ‘Made in India’, ‘Make for India’ and finally ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ which, when translated literally, means self-reliant India. Slogans of course must be backed by well thought out and deliberate policy changes, pragmatic processes and practical timelines to turn them into reality. Hasty measures can result in a chaotic situation instead of capability and capacity development which is the desired aim of Aatmanirbharta in defence.

Building a robust infrastructure for defence industry and manufacturing is an evolutionary and time consuming process. It must be supported by strong R&D, innovative culture, technological advancement and a robust ancillary network. Collaborations within the ecosystem must include the end user, industry, R&D and academia. Collaborations with foreign OEMs are imperative where certain core technologies reside and who have already developed systems and subsystems which are cost competitive.  In this sense, self-reliance need not be taken to overzealous extremes. The push for indigenous R&D and production must coexist with collaborations with FOEMs for cutting edge military technologies to preclude the possibility of short term voids and vulnerabilities.

As this issue is dedicated to DefExpo 2022, we extend our best wishes to all the participants.