Marking the rise of a new dawn in India’s mission to attain self reliance in fefence equipment manufacturing, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) today cleared the much awaited Strategic Partnership (SP) model. The decision to roll out the model was arrived at a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meet led by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. The policy, which is part of DPP (Defence Procurement Program) – 2016, had been in the making for over two years now.

A press release by the MoD states that the DAC has finalised the broad contours of a policy aimed at engaging the Indian private sector in the manufacture of high-tech defence equipment in India. The release states that the policy, which is largely referred to as the SP Model, is aimed at developing the defence industrial eco-system in the country through the involvement of both the major Indian corporates as well as the MSME sector.

With the conclusion of the SP model, decks have been cleared for the inclusion of the private sector industry in catering to the requirements of the armed forces. The successful roll-out of the model will also help make progress in several multi-billion dollar acquisitions programs which have been stuck for years.

DAC, which is the top decision making body pertaining to defence equipment acquisitions, had met several times in the past week to arrive at a conscience with the stakeholders. The council led by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had met with top representatives from the private sector on May 11, where several reservations were raised by industry experts. The council had placated these reservations through a meet held on May 15 but had failed to conclude the draft of the policy owing to reservations amongst the ministry officials themselves.

Gripen Manufacturing line at Saab’s Linkoping facility; Source – Broadsword.

Following marathon inter-ministry meetings and also through extensive dialogue with the stakeholders, the MoD by finalising the SP model has finally succeeded in adding life to the Make in India initiative. The draft of the policy will now be forwarded on to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which is the top decision making authority pertaining to defence and security matters. A formal notification regarding the introduction of the policy will be issued once the draft has been cleared by the CCS which is headed by the Prime Minister.

Strategic Partnership Model, which was drawn up in 2015 by a committee headed by former Director General of Acquisition Dhirendra Singh, is a policy framework that will help incubate the capacity of India’s private sector in manufacturing cutting-edge defence platforms. The SP model will work as a system of systems integrator and shall be the key to facilitate progress in the government’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ initiative.

In accordance to the current draft of the program the private sector will be involved in manufacturing of four strategically important platforms. The four segments opened up to the maturing private sector are single engine fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and armoured fighting vehicles.

The introduction of the SP model comes as a major breather to the navy as decks have now been cleared for the force to surge ahead with its plans to acquire six conventional submarines under delayed P-75I program. Also, the navy can now firmly push ahead with its plans to acquire multi-role helicopters to better arm its frontline battleships.

A view of Tejas production line in HAL’s Bangalore facility.

Air Force, which is being bled off aerial supremacy given the fast retiring rate of its frontline fighter aircraft, can now stove ahead with its program to acquire single engine fighter aircraft either from Sweden based Saab or the US based Lockheed Martin.

Under the SP model, the state-run DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Undertaking) will co-exist with the private sector thus enabling faster acquisition of strategically important platforms. The introduction of the SP model has hurdled a new era in India’s defence manufacturing industry which is poised to takeoff under the watchful guard and nurturing of the MoD and the armed forces.

© Karthik Kakoor