Defence experts on Saturday exhorted the Indian Diaspora to help them market indigenously developed defence products in their country of adoption by using their professional skills and good offices.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited chief Nalini Ranjan Mohanty said this while making his presentation at the session on opportunities in defence and internal security pointed at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations on Saturday.
He pointed out that HAL, established in 1940 by industrialist Walchand Hirachand and later taken over by the British government in India at the commencement of the Second World War for servicing its combat aircraft, had begun blazing a trail.
Apart from providing the various military aviation requirements, HAL manufactured under license MiG 21, MiG 27, Jaguar, Light Combat Aircraft, Advanced Light Helicopter and serviced Mirage aircraft.
All this required money, especially since the public sector company constantly undertook research activities.
He said that the LCA was indigenously designed and produced and was already flying with two technology demonstrators. It would begin production within a few years.
He pointed out that the ALH was a 40-seater multi-role, multi-mission aircraft which had attracted widespread appreciation since it operated under extreme climatic conditions, flying in sub-zero temperatures and during extreme heat.
Besides, HAL also made satellite structures and avionics and aggregates and these required huge local as well as international markets.
He appealed to the Indian Diaspora to step forward to market the Indian defence products, firstly through their ideas and secondly through their skills and clout in their country of adoption.
Scientific advisor to the defence minister, Dr Vasudev K Aatre, outlined the present security scenario of India and emphasized that the 'security at the border had got entangled with internal security.'
He referred to the functions of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (that he heads), which also entailed intelligence gathering, surveillance and cyber security.
Contending that DRDO was the country's largest R & D institution, he said its activities included 'mind to market conceptualisation, design and prototyping,' among other things.
"Its major technological challenges pertained to missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, tanks and other weapons," Dr Aatre said. "We have a range of terrain on which we have to battle under extreme climatic conditions," he added.
The DRDO chief contended that it was engaged in developing missile system technology, aeronautical technology for which manpower was being generated from academic institutions.
"We have no dearth of R&D facilities in India, we have sufficient infrastructure and it is pretty good," he pointed out.
"We are mindful of technology to product, product to production and production to market," he said, adding that "our concept and system design are very good."
Dr Aatre referred to the Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile, Brahmos, for which they were looking for markets.
This included consultancy and joint ventures with American universities.
However, he asserted that 'DRDO is open to NRIs but it must be done as equal partners.'
Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses chief K Santhanam said that the Indian defence establishment was aware about the 'technological interdependence as the world gets smaller.'
He referred to the indigenous intrusion-detection system and terrorism-tracker software and early warning system.
Santhanam favoured 'promotion of synergy between Indian and NRI strengths' and from the Indian side he wanted the participation of the government and the private sector in defence production.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited Komarilingam Gopalan Ramachandran referred to strengths and weaknesses of the Indian industry in defence technology development and praised defence minister George Fernandes for initiating privatisation in 2001 (excluding foreign participation).
"Otherwise India is generally satisfied with the absorption of the foreign defence technology," he pointed out, adding that "we need to be planning to target global markets."
Referring to the indigenous strengths, Ramachandarn pointed out that India had excellent manufacturing facilities including defence laboratories, DRDO and IITs. Besides, India's leadership in the IT sector was well acknowledged, he said.
"The Indian Diaspora can contribute firstly through ideas and secondly by suggesting specific projects," Ramachandran said.
DRDO chief facilitator Manthi Ram Natarajan referred to the designs of various mechanicals systems over the last two decades.
Contending that it sought support with US industries, he said the current activities pertained to systems engineering, propulsion systems, fire-control systems and specialised weapons for which work had been undertaken in DRDO labs.
He lamented that western countries had denied sub-system technology to India and "we lack fuel-injection systems."
However, sometimes the denial was a blessing in disguise because it spurred DRDO to develop the sub-system, he contended.
"R&D investments have remained pitifully low but the scenario is changing for the better," he said.
Ramachandran pointed out that "We have progressed from the engineering phase to the defence production phase and will continue to do so provided there is sufficient volume (of demand)."
Sharad Marathe, president and CEO of the US-based Universal technical Systems Inc pointed out that the western countries would continue to deny defence technology to India for a long time to come and the panacea was to become self-sufficient through indigenous development and production.