These initiatives and more, visibly seen in the Defence Expos and in the recently concluded Aero India Show in Bengaluru epitomize that India has created the mark in the technology world.
By Lt. Gen Anil Kapoor (Retd)
A resurgent India on the move can be said to have embarked on a two and a half front technology sojourn. The First Front is the Make in India, as a precursor to Made in India, the Second Front being Aatmanirbhar Bharat as a call for self-reliance and the Half Front is Start-up India to champion the agile ignited young minds into entrepreneur ventures. All these coming up concurrently has created an enormous technology and innovation bandwidth, and an excitement in India which has tech-reverberations world-wide. A Nation known for technical prowess comprising strategic thinkers and technology wizards, the white collared enabler professionals and skilled innovative tech workforce at the grass roots, has ushered an era in technology development by giving the world two major game changing concepts – “Jugaad” which means a resourceful approach to problem solving and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” which means self-reliance. These initiatives and more, visibly seen in the Defence Expos and in the recently concluded Aero India Show in Bengaluru epitomize that India has created the mark in the technology world.
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The New Tech World Order is defined by Four Ds – Data, Digitisation, Digitalisation and Disruption. While these have fueled digital transformation globally giving rise to a large number of dual use technologies which are drivers of automation & autonomous applications, it is disruption which is not only transforming technologies at an unprecedented pace, but also transforming business concepts, models, processes and practices. While automated systems are rule based, the autonomous systems are designed and programmed to take decisions and act. Supported by AI, IoT, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Big data analytics and BlockChain technology and interconnected by 5G networks, the cyber-based System of Systems have revolutionized dual use and military technologies. An apt example is Autonomous Unmanned Systems which have created systems for global air traffic controls, local traffic management, transformed precision manufacturing and many more, on the one hand, and automated weapon systems, on the other hand, as demonstrated in the Azerbaijan – Armenia War 2020 through swarms of drones. These systems typically comprise a land based autonomous pivot with computer based system’s application software for Command & Control info based decision support, tightly integrated with the mobile maneuver arm comprising actionable elements or combat elements in automated systems with man in the loop or fully autonomous systems with man out of the loop. Automated Unmanned Systems comprise a myriad of niche disruptive technologies, both at the hardware and software levels.
With a country of India’s size, endowments, geographical location, regional and global imperatives and perennial security challenges (both internal and external), self-reliance in defence technologies is inescapable and must be the edifice of the National agenda. A durable national security requires credible defence capability and capacity for dissuasion, deterrence and meeting the conventional threats. Development of industrial infrastructure, strategic technology management and establishment of a credible defence industrial base will be the future mainstay of developing Nations like India. The task ahead of India is daunting given that India is the world’s second largest arms importer and hence, the Defence Industrial Base in India is a compulsion, both for sustaining the military power and to emerge as a defence manufacturing hub.
Globally, India today stands as the second largest importer of Defence equipment. Defence Industrial Base focus has to be on increasing indigenous defence research, design, development, manufacturing, and, as a corollary, move the Country towards greater self-reliance and net exporter of defence equipment. The Make in India, Aatmanirbhar Bharat programmes and numerous policy initiatives like FDI policy, negative import list, Defence industrial corridor, review of defence procurement procedure and others, the long-term strategic partnerships have emerged as essential tools to solve the existing problems and promote self-reliance in defence industry. Three core elements, namely ‘defence’ (security necessity, policy formulation and implementation), ‘industry’ (providers of goods and services), resources (budget, technology, research and innovation) powered by competent and qualified human resource (defence technology, knowledge management and skills) are interdependent as they combine to create the Defence Industrial Base (DIB).
It is, therefore, an opportune moment to involve academia to synergise with industry, in general, and defence industry, in particular, to launch science, technology and engineering programs in defence technologies to create the turf of defence technology professionals. India has embarked on a journey to modernize the Armed Forces. It is encouraging that the Master of Technology Defence Technology Program conceived by DRDO and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is indeed a defining moment among private and central Universities to participate in this Defence Technology Programme. Recently, Amity University at Noida and Gurugram campus have taken up the challenge to be the forerunners of this unique M Tech Def Tech Programme. The M Tech course comprises six verticals comprising combat vehicles, naval, aerospace and missiles, directed energies, high energy materials, communication and sensors and disruptive technologies. It is a considered view that preparing knowledgeable and skilled defence technology professionals will provide young budding engineers with great employment opportunities within the arena of defence start-ups, OEMs, Tier 1,2 and 3 private industry, DPSUs, Ordnance Factories and DRDO. Such professionals shall facilitate and catapult India into the league of formidable defence industry complex Nations both for indigenisation of defence equipment and be a stronger competitor in defence exports. High time India fights her wars with Indian Weapons and Military equipment.
The New World Order respects Nations with the strength to manage VUCAD (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity and Disruption). Bewildered and worried by the struggle, a child opens the cocoon to let the butterfly fly off. Alas, the butterfly failed to fly and perished since the wings did not develop the intrinsic strength afforded by Nature in the struggle moments of de-cocooning. With a good intent but inadequate knowledge of ‘how’s and whys’ of the child, a potential creation was terminated. Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Made-in-India hold a great strategic intent. In the backdrop of a strong technical base provided by ISRO, DRDO, Technology and Innovation Centres of industries and PSUs, Start-ups and Technology Hubs, the time is ripe to strengthen the cocoon through qualified Defence Technology professionals and fly out the technology butterfly globally. The tech sojourn must become an illustrious lasting tech journey. Let the youngsters join the exercise in Nation building through M Tech in Defence Technology – the future lies here and beckons.
(The author superannuated as Director General Electronics and Mechanical Engineering (DG EME) and is presently an Honorary Advisor, Amity University. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online)