Amit Cowshish is a former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence and presently a Distinguished Fellow with the Indian Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for Detailed Profile
It is almost customary to blame underutilization of the capital acquisition budget on defective planning, apathy of the civilian bureaucracy and procedural complexities. This view, however, does not take into account several factors that are external to the Ministry of Defence.
MoD has to assume the leadership role and provide some kind of a single-window service to the defence industry to steer the offsets in a direction that helps achieve the objective of modernisation through self-reliance.
On the capital side, there may not be much of an adverse impact of reduction in allocation if the MMRCA contract gets pushed to the next year. On the revenue side, procurement of ammunition and other equipment as well as maintenance of legacy systems would be adversely affected.
It has been a long time since the first set of instructions on defence procurement was issued in 1992. Since then, however, there have been several refinements and additions, based on the feedback from the stakeholders and the experience of the Defence Ministry itself, culminating in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2011. This is presently under review and it would be reasonable to expect that the changes being contemplated will result in further refinement of the procedure and address some of the concerns expressed from time to time.
The available literature on defence planning in India does not make for very encouraging reading. A few things stand out. Firstly, there is an acute dearth, if not almost complete absence, of authentic official accounts and analysis of what has gone on in the name of defence planning over the last six decades. Secondly, narratives based either on personal recollection or on opinions and views of those who have directly or indirectly been associated with defence planning at different points of time have filled this void. Others have chipped in too.