Bengaluru, Jan 1: The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has become more active since the Narendra Modi government came to power.
The high-level body chaired by the Defence Minister has already taken some major decisions, much to the relief of the armed forces. Most importantly, the DAC has been meeting on a regular basis, fast-tracking crucial decisions.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had signed off Year 2014 by saying that the DAC had cleared deals (projects) worth Rs 78,000 crore in the last few months.
"In this, Rs 65,000 crore alone is under the ‘Make in India' category," he had said.
The decision to hold regular DAC meetings has been seen as a positive step by many who are closely monitoring India's defence matters.
Jaitley set the tone
While handling the twin-post of Finance and Defence, it was Arun Jaitley who had decided to revitalise DAC. He had even a taken a jibe at the UPA regime, which had a shoddy track record of holding DAC meetings.
"The DAC has been meeting every month and hope this practice continues, unlike during the previous government," Jaitley told in November last.
"Since I became the minister, the DAC has been meeting every month and I hope the practice will continue," Jaitley had said.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) in its annual performance release claimed that the DAC has cleared proposals worth over Rs 1.50 lakh crore alone in a single year.
"Most of the equipment and platforms, cleared by the DAC, will be manufactured in the country, either by the public or private sector entities, through collaborations and tie-ups with foreign manufacturing companies," the MoD statement said.
DAC becoming vibrant, a good sign: Matheswaran
Air Marshal M Matheswaran (Retd), former Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff (Policy, Planning and Development) and currently an Advisor to HAL, says that the DAC has become vibrant under the Modi regime.
"The DAC meetings have become very regular now, which is a welcome move. Defence Minister Parrikar seems to be serious in conducting DAC and I am happy to see that the current regime is fixing the meeting dates in advance," Matheswaran, a leading think-tank on India's military matters told OneIndia.
Matheswaran said that the government's decision to increase the FDI in defence to 49 per cent has been the highlight of year 2014. "I am also inspired to see the PM pulling up DRDO and DPSUs for non-performance. Accountability is the key," he said.
He said through the ‘Make in India' the government has made its intentions clear to help the private sector. "I would want to see some action on this front now," Matheswaran added.
DRDO will have a lot more to offer: Tamilmani
DRDO Director-General (Aeronautical Systems) Dr K Tamilmani told OneIndia that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will have a lot more to offer in the coming years.
"The aeronautical cluster has done matured technology development over the years. The success of Nirbhay subsonic missile is a pointer towards our complete command over a variety of new-age technologies," Dr Tamilmani said.
He said the DRDO will be happy to join hands with more private industries to build a vibrant eco system in the country. "The industry and user should be together from day one," Dr Tamilmani said.
He said the Rustom UAV can be used by the Indian Coast Guard to monitor the international waters. "It is ideally suited to see whether our fishermen are crossing their boundaries. The way-point navigation will be handy for the Coast Guard," the top scientist said.
Private sector wants more changes
In an exclusive interview (set to be published soon) to OneIndia recently, B V R Mohan Reddy, Founder and Executive Chairman of Cyient, an engineering, network and operations solutions company headquartered in Hyderabad, said that the MoD should create a conducive environment for private companies to do business.
"We are keen to do business with Indian defence organizations. But lots need to change in MoD," says Reddy.
Major recent decisions by DAC
- Decided that all the 384 light-utility helicopters (LUHs) needed by the Army and Air Force to replace the existing Cheetah/Chetak fleets will be made in India with foreign collaboration.
- To build six submarines in India at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore and to purchase over 8,000 Israeli anti-tank guided missiles and 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft.
- Acquisition of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from the US will continue.
- Approved the purchase of Integrated Anti-Submarine Warfare Suites (torpedo decoys and active towed array sonars) to be fitted on seven stealth frigates and four destroyers, which are to be built in India.
- Approved proposals for Rs 4,444 crore, including the purchase of four survey vessels at Rs 2,324 crore.
The all powerful DAC
As reported in these columns earlier, the DAC was set up in October 2001 following recommendations from Group of Ministers (GoMs) on ‘Reforming the National Security System.' The need for DAC was felt post-Kargil conflict and this high-level body is chaired by the Defence Minister.
Other members include: Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Defence Secretary, Secretary Defence Research & Development, Secretary Defence Production, Chief of Integrated Staff Committees (HQ IDS), Director General (Acquisition) and Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff.
The main aim of the DAC is to fast-track procurement process of the armed forces by optimally utilising the available budget.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake)