New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru highlights India’s significant strides in defence under his leadership. HAL, a cornerstone of the Indian Air Force, has transformed into a robust 1.35 lakh crore company, with share prices soaring fivefold since 2013.
PM Modi’s commitment to Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defence is evident in HAL’s exponential growth, marked by increased manufacturing prowess and expanded export capacities. The recent opening of a regional marketing office in Malaysia underscores HAL’s global reach.
The Modi government’s comprehensive strategy includes developing indigenous technologies, fostering a domestic manufacturing ecosystem, implementing structural reforms, and enhancing combat strength. This commitment has sparked a positive shift in India’s defence procurement behavior, with a notable decrease in reliance on foreign sources.
The Defence Acquisition Procedure (2020) and initiatives like Make in India have significantly boosted domestic manufacturing. Two defence industrial corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu further catalyze indigenous production. The changing dynamics in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow, witnessing a 2.5 times increase since 2014, emphasize growing international confidence in India’s defence sector.
A pivotal aspect of the transformation is the renewed focus on research and innovation. Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) facilities are now open to industry, startups, and academia, with a quarter of the defence R&D budget allocated for this purpose. Initiatives like iDEX engage startups and MSMEs, contributing to the dynamism of the sector.
India’s active production of defence aircraft and equipment, including INS Vikrant, Tejas, Akash and BrahMos missiles, Arjun tank, Dhanush artillery, and Pinaka rocket, showcases the nation’s self-reliance. Defence exports have surged eightfold in the last six years, reaching around Rs. 16,000 crores in 2022-23, with the private sector playing a significant role.
Structural reforms, such as the introduction of the Chief of Defence Staff and corporatization of the Ordnance Factory Board, address hindrances to industry growth. Social reforms like One Rank One Pension and the entry of women into combat roles have expanded the recruiting pool.
PM Modi’s vision for the future aims at making India a net exporter of defence equipment, with a target of Rs. 35,000 crores in the next five years. The government’s strategic decisions, coupled with historic reforms and calculated risks, have turned Aatmanirbharta in defence from vision to reality, punctuating India’s growth story.