The DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat has said that self-reliance in critical defence technologies cannot be achieved by the premier defence R&D organization alone. In a terse statement at an award ceremony here today, he called upon the three Services to overcome their temptation to induct the latest weaponry from abroad.

“The Services … must understand that while the temptation may be overwhelming, to field proven, state-of-art imported systems, they too have a role to play in the economic and industrial growth of the country. No foreign system can be customized to completely address our long term requirement,” said Dr Saraswat, addressing the DRDO Technology Day Awards function.

Dr Saraswat pointed out that the DRDO cannot force the Armed Forces to opt for the indigenously harnessed advanced weaponry.

“DRDO has long been held responsible for the level of self-reliance in defence systems, but it must be understood that the responsibility for self-reliance should be shared by all stakeholders of the Ministry of Defence and cannot be placed on DRDO alone, which neither has the power to impose its products on its customer nor the mandate or capacity to produce the developed systems all by themselves,” said Dr Saraswat. “At the same time Indian Industry has not yet reached the maturity level to take up this responsibility on itself,” he added.

Welcoming the Defence Ministry’s initiative to restructure the DRDO following the Rama Rao Committee proposals and the Offset Policy to spur private sector participation in the defence industry, Dr Saraswat allayed the pitfalls of wanton import of weapons and defence hardware.

“We … look to the recently instituted Offset Policy of MoD, which should be utilized to bring in high-end technology and quality manufacturing processes into the country and must guard against the pressures of high volume low end build-to-print modules,” he said.

Pointing out that the DRDO was always open to partner actively with the Armed Forces, Industry and the Academia, Dr Saraswat, however, sought more freedom for the DRDO to pursue its “primary aim of developing world class weapon systems”. “It is reiterated that DRDO must be given the freedom to choose a production agency based on their ability to absorb technology and carry out value addition after following a transparent procedure,” Dr Saraswat said, adding, “Commercial pricing cannot always be the overriding factor”.

The DRDO chief said that the successful missile development programme and the development of the Light Combat Aircraft ‘LCA Tejas’ has given the country a strong base in the aerospace industry, so much so that most of the international aerospace majors have decided to set up R&D/production facilities in India in the last few years.

Dr Saraswat said the DRDO is also actively engaged in combating emerging internal security threats.

“In view of the emerging threat scenario in sub-conventional warfare, DRDO has proactively undertaken the task of familiarizing India’s paramilitary forces with the products and technologies available for their use and plan to launch new initiatives in surveillance, early detection and warning systems to tackle the growing menace,” he said.

Dr Saraswat said the DRDO expects to conduct a test flight of the indigenously developed ‘Agni-5’, the entirely solid-fuel Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of 5,000 kms, by next year. “With this, DRDO would have given India a comprehensive indigenous strategic capability, available with only a few nations of the world,” he said.

Quoting a study by the reputed independent evaluation agency ‘National Council of Applied Economic Research’, Dr Saraswat, who is also the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, refuted criticism that the huge sums of money being pumped into the DRDO during the last five decades has not been productive.

“The total production value of the major systems inducted into the Services has reached a (whopping) figure of Rs. 68,000/- crores during the last decade, with the modest R&D investment of about Rs. 3,000/- crores per year,” Dr Saraswat said, adding, “self-reliance index will certainly be enhanced with new major systems like MBT, LCA, Radars and Electronic Warfare Systems being inducted into Services.”

Presenting a roadmap, Dr Saraswat said the DRDO’s goals would focus on Space and Cyber Security, Hypersonic Vehicles, Directed Energy Weapons and Smart Materials, Composites and MEMS (Micro-Electromechanical Systems) -based Sensors. “A major R&D Programme on NBC (Nuclear-Biological-Chemical) Defence has been recently sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security,” he said.