In a major step towards boosting indigenous defence manufacturers, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has decided to provide a level-playing field to Indian private and public sector defence manufacturers vis-à-vis foreign vendors in terms of specifications of weapon systems and conduct of trials.

These steps have been taken by the Narendra Modi government after receiving representations from indigenous manufacturers that they were being discriminated against in the acquisition process.

Sources in the government told MyNation that they recently received an input that, while the trials of an indigenous naval equipment were being conducted in the Bay of Bengal, amid a heavy amount of sewage, similar foreign equipment were being tested in relatively much cleaner waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

When the authorities concerned were questioned about such discrimination against the indigenous manufacturers, they could not give a proper explanation on the matter.

This is why the Defence Minister decided recently that the trial conditions for both foreign and indigenous manufacturers would have to be identical or comparable as the equipment to be procured have to be used in Indian territory and not in foreign locations.

In another decision that would help the local manufacturers — including the premier research agency Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — the specifications for both Indian and foreign manufacturers would be the same for a particular weapon system.

Sources said that, in the recent past, there have been cases where the specifications of heavy guns being procured from foreign vendors were much lighter in comparison to the requirements demanded of the indigenous vendors.

Former DRDO spokesperson Ravi Gupta cited the example of the indigenous Arjun tank and the T-90 tanks imported from Russia.

“While the DRDO was asked to develop the indigenous Arjun tank with a much higher level of protection and mobility — such as fire-on-move and many other stringent capabilities — the Russian T-90 tank was imported with much inferior specifications, which does not have capabilities such fire-on-move and various others present in Arjun,” he said.