Expecting defence orders at this stage of the country's still nascent "Make in India" policy is "a little premature", top Defence Ministry official said on Wednesday at DefExpo 2018 here that showcases the country as a major defence manufacturing hub.
"The Strategic Partnership Policy is at a preliminary stage and we have to evaluate it and do consultations in terms of (transfer of) technology. To expect orders next year, I am afraid, is a little premature," Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra said.
He was addressing a joint press conference with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Production Secretary Ajay Kumar, and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief S. Christopher on the first day of the April 11-14 defence expo on the East Coast Road near Tamil Nadu capital Chennai.
Mitra was replying to a question actually asked to Sitharaman whether the BJP-led NDA government that completes its term in about a year from now would be able to secure orders under the "Make in India" flagship programme to boost India's manufacturing sector.
Ajay Kumar said the ministry was examining comments it had received from various stakeholders on the draft Defence Production Policy 2018 released on March 22 to give a thrust to development of design and production capabilities of the country's defence sector.
"We are in the process of examining those comments and based on consultations with other ministries, the policy will be placed for final approval. We hope to see the final policy very soon. Consultation process is on... We should be able to do it very soon," Kumar said.
With only 12 months left before the next Lok Sabha elections, strategic projects such as the Project 75-I submarines have been stuck in the absence a model policy.
Mitra also said the government was in the process of amending the Strategic Partnership Model policy announced in May 2017 for the Indian private sector.
The policy under the Defence Procurement Procedure seeks to identify a few Indian private companies as strategic partners, who would initially tie up with a few shortlisted foreign original equipment manufacturers to manufacture big-ticket military platforms.
In the initial phase, the selection of strategic partners would be confined to four segments -- fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured fighting vehicles (AFV)/ main battle tanks (MBT).
Secretary Mitra said India had moved with its first procurement under the strategic partnership model with the rollout of the first request for information (RFI) for procuring 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force last week.
"We have brought out the RFI (for the fighter jets). We have to evaluate it, and look at transfer of technology and Make in India aspects."
Mitra dismissed a claim that RFI to purchase the fighter jets under a $15-billion deal was a repeat of the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal announced by the UPA government in 2008 which was eventually scrapped.
"I don't think we need such apprehensions. It is a fresh RFI and we should look at it that way."
(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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