Addressing scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on the occasion of National Technology Day through video conference, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stressed the need for India to become self-reliant and a “net exporter of technology”. “In the last five years, we have set new targets, and worked hard to formulate the right policy framework to achieve them. I am sure that you can see this change in every field of defence research, development and manufacture.” He added, “We always have to keep in mind that there is no alternative to indigenous technology and indigenous manufacture. We will be truly self-reliant only when India succeeds in becoming a net exporter instead of a net importer of technology.”
After Independence, India was fated to become a major importer of weapons and defence equipment. With its first prime minister believing that India did not need an army-the police was good enough- and a defence minister who recommended that ordnance factories are better off producing pressure cookers and coffee percolators, at a time when India with its geo-strategic vastness and threats from two neighbours should have been building up its military muscle. While China which attacked India in 1962, can ironically be thanked for exposing the insincerity and incompetence of India’s prime and defence ministers and the Indian Army getting a new rifle produced by the Ishapore rifle factory. Before Indian Army got that rifle, India’s first defence deal scandal about importing jeeps for the Army surfaced. This also set the then ruling party’s course of importing critically required weaponry and defence equipment at high costs owing to large kickbacks, which the politico-bureaucratic establishment got quite addicted to. Before India’s third war waged by Pakistan in end 1971, the stage had been set for 70% of vital needs India’s Army, Navy and Air Force to be imported from erstwhile USSR. The break-up of USSR in end 1991 created major problems for India’s Armed Forces. Almost a decade later during BJP’s first stint, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin agreed on joint cooperation for production and if possible, export too. While a solid achievement following this was joint production of the BrahMos missile system and a beginning in producing defence equipment was made, the fact remains that despite Indian Army has been majorly fighting terrorists equipped with sophisticated firearms for over three decades, it has still to produce or acquire a high-quality assault rifle and a number of other products. Although BJP, since 2014, has been trying to work towards self-reliance, by opening up defence production to Indian industry, developing expertise and production in numbers takes much time.
Mr. Rajnath Singh called upon the country’s pool of experts to contribute to make India a technological powerhouse and assured that the Government and people fully support their future endeavours in this direction. He informed that defence organisations are tackling the challenges posed by COVID-19 using state-of-the-art technology. India’s defence forces and Research & Development efforts have contributed significantly in finding solutions to the challenges posed by this invisible enemy. He added, “DRDO has developed more than 50 products in the last 3-4 months, like bio suit, sanitiser dispenser, PPE kits, etc through its continuous efforts to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. The indomitable spirit of our defence industry has increased the opportunity for mass production of these high quality products in record time.”
With the National Technology Day being observed on 11 May, 2020, commemorating the nuclear tests conducted on that day at Pokhran in 1998, that symbolised successful achievements of home grown technologies, the Defence Minister stressed the need for self-reliance in critical areas. Speaking on the significance of the occasion, Mr. Singh said, “This day is dedicated to the knowledge, talent and perseverance of our Indian scientists, especially those who have made their valuable contribution in finding solutions to the complex national security challenges of the country”. He further said, “National Technology Day is an opportunity to take stock of our technological advancements and if we are to emerge as a technological force then we should know what to do. Such introspection is necessary because science and technology have become the most important drivers of a nation’s economy.” The day reminds us of the continuous effort to achieve self-reliance in important technologies, encourage innovations and maintain technology flow for product realisation, he added.
National Technology Day 2020 was celebrated at DRDO to commemorate and pay tribute to the dedication, determination, and sacrifice of scientists and engineers, who have worked for achieving a national technological identity with the success of Shakti-Pokhran 2 and a webinar was held with a presentation on DRDO technologies to fight against COVID-19.
Member Niti Aayog Dr V K Saraswat in his address congratulated DRDO for outstanding work done during the first 45 days in fight against COVID-19. Stating that the country has energised the Science and Technology infrastructure in this fight, he advised DRDO to provide more focus on life sciences laboratories and must revive work on the bio-defence programme. He emphasised the need for the development of more robotic devices where DRDO has strong base. Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India Prof K Vijay Raghavan in his speech appreciated DRDO and said that it is “extraordinary for it to rise to the occasion in the fight against COVID-19”. Secretary, Department of Defence Research & Development and Chairman, DRDO Dr G Satheesh Reddy congratulated all the teams for their innovative efforts in supporting the fellow citizens, Armed Forces and Corona Warriors in combating COVID-19 and stressed that the further major challenge is timely delivery of the 53 products to fight COVID-19 developed by DRDO all over the world, during the lockdown. He added that while some of the products have been inducted in record time, “delayed delivery is no delivery”.
The writer is editor WordSword Features. He is also a strategic analyst and former spokesperson, Defence Ministry and Indian Army, and can be contacted at [email protected]