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Shakil Husain asked: May India develop a military industrial complex? What are the prospects?

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  • Ali Ahmed: The term 'military-industrial complex' acquired negative connotations since its use as such by Eisenhower in his farewell address. The apprehension is that such a complex would acquire its own interest and thereby fuel armaments and arms racing. This is what transpired in the US in its arming across breadth and depth in both the nuclear and conventional dimensions. Clearly, this is not how India views itself or envisages its future. Instead, it prefers the term 'defence industrial base'. Its history of conquest and as a once colonised state is attributed, among other reasons, to deficiencies in military technology. Consequently it is resolved to be better prepared in defending its freedoms. The template for this endeavour was set up early, in the Nehruvian period itself. Today, India has a technological edge conferred by the DRDO, as also a production system based on OFB and major PSUs. It has decided to reduce the external content in its armaments to 30 per cent. Given that its growing economy permits greater resources for allocation to defence (even though the percentage is maintained at 2-2.5 per cent of the GDP), it has evolved its Defence Procurement Procedure over the last half a decade so as to bring in private sector participation in defence production. The private sector is enabled to do so in partnership with foreign defence companies. Additionally, the companies from abroad are required to broaden the defence production base by transfer of technology through the programme of offsets. These measures would enlarge India's capacity. India would nevertheless require to be alert to the phenomenon observed elsewhere of armaments build up acquiring its own logic.