New Delhi – On January 11, the Defence Acquisition Council is believed to have taken some important policy decisions that will eventually get incorporated, along with other policy and procedural changes, in the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which is expected to be released anytime now. Will the new DPP legalise middlemen in arms business, something that defence minister Manohar Parrikar had promised on December 31, 2014? In fact, Parrikkar had talked of bringing out a clear policy on middlemen as early as February 2015. Realising the importance of the positive role that the middle men can play in the government’s “Make in India” programme in the defence sector, the defence minister had said that “The middle men have to be declared and their commission cannot be linked to the outcome of negotiations”.
Arguably, India, which is the world’s largest arms-importer and which now aspires to be a major arms producer not only for increasing the indigenous content in the arms but also exporting them, has the most complex system of rules and regulations in the defence sector, all in the name of enhancing transparency. And some of the rules are so perverse that the government once cancelled the purchase of mine sweeper ships that the Indian Navy badly needed after the South Korean manufacturer revealed that it had used the services of a Delhi-based agent for his English-speaking skills! But ironically, India also happens to be the country where there have been massive defence scandals. If India has been a country of great contradictions, it is mostly due to the fact that India is also a country of great double standards. We want something proscribed in India but will like to take advantage of this very thing abroad. That such an approach in this age of globalisation hurts our national interests is not an overstatement.
Trying to influence a decision for a particular cause is lobbying and there is no harm in doing it as long as the decision-makers are not individually bribed. Obviously those who lobby are paid by the organisation they lobby for. It is like we paying the lawyer who fights our case in the court. If the Judge is convinced by the merits of his argument and decides the case in our favour, we do not call the Judge corrupt. He is corrupt only when he takes bribes to deliver the verdict in our favour. Viewed thus, is it a big deal if established global military-industries, whom we are now courting in a big way to come to India to invest and work together with our public and private sector, employ lobbyists and pay them and for their activities in promoting business interests in India?
We need people from across the spectrum to present their views on how to boost our defence-industry to the decision-makers. There should be regular interactions between the Ministry of defence (MoD) and the industry, and here the industry includes the Indian public/private sector as well as the foreign Original Equipment manufacturers (OEMs). After all, both the private and public sector enterprises need foreign collaborations, or partnerships, for innovation and technology. At present, such interactions are infrequent, unstructured and fragmented. As Amit Cowshish, a former member Defence Procurement Board, says, “Securing an appointment with the higher officials is a task in itself. The situation is slightly better when it comes to interaction between the Services Headquarters and the industry but this is of limited help as the decisions are generally taken by the ministry and not the SHQs. There is thus a need to create a forum for free and frank interaction between the MoD, SHQs and the industry to resolve the issues as they arise lest they become roadblocks in the endeavour for indigenization. In fact, other departments, such as the Ministry of Finance, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), etc. must also participate in such interaction as the MoD, acting on its own, cannot resolve all the problems faced by the industry. This is necessary for infusing life into the policy initiatives taken by the MoD”.
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