Less defence, less exports

A claim by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh this week was that India’s defence exports have grown by 334 per cent in the last five years and we are now doing such exports to as many as 75 countries. The fact of the matter is that both these figures do not mean much for the simple reason that India’s record in this sector is too low in comparison with those of other nations. India exports defence wares worth Rs 9,000 crore a year now; no big sum anyway. Also, India is the second largest importer of arms costing billions, the first being Saudi Arabia. While the US is the top arms exporter, carrying a market size of 37 per cent, China occupies the fifth place. Good governance is a mirage for India. While several other nations in this geo-political region have grown by leaps and bounds, the economic growth here is below par with only a population bulge.
The greatness of Jawaharlal Nehru was his vision for the nation’s future. As first prime minister leading Independent India, he initiated high-stakes programmes for each and every sector. He not only introduced the Five Year Plans, but also strengthened the industrial sector with steel plants, helped agriculture with a set of huge dams, started ISRO for space research, and set up ordnance factories to produce defence ware as in Jabalpur and a military tank factory in Avadi, Tamil Nadu. They were just a start. Successive governments failed to keep up the momentum. They engaged in petty politics and meaningless rhetoric and failed to take the nation forward. The IT sector grew by virtue of the initiatives by software engineers, not by help from the political establishment. This, thus, stands out while every other sectors in the country are failing to make a mark. With a billion-plus strong population, human resources are India’s best advantage, but the nation’s leadership failed to make good use of its people.
Successive governments took special interest in purchase of military ware from other countries, rather than encouraging domestic research and production of modern armaments and fighter jets. The commission behind such shady deals as in Bofors turned out to be their main obsession and attraction. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has raised expectations by claiming to promote ‘Make In India’ as a principal endeavour for the defence sector. It has not progressed. Launching a programme is one thing, making a success out of it is a different ball game. India can only curse itself for the plight that it has landed in.

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