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New rules for India's billion-dollar arms game

By Ajai Shukla in New Delhi
May 08, 2008 02:16 IST
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The long wait for the global arms industry is drawing to a close. Top sources in the Ministry of Defence have confirmed to Business Standard that a revamped policy for defence procurement and production is almost finalised.

By May 15, and in any case before May 25, the Defence Procurement Policy, 2008 will be promulgated by Defence Minister AK Antony.

Before that is done, a high-level meeting at the MoD, on Wednesday, would have obtained the defence minister's decisions on a few key issues that are still unresolved.

Thereafter, the Defence Acquisition Council, the MoD's highest decision-making body, will approve the draft DPP-2008. After that, Antony will formally announce DPP-2008. The new policy will simultaneously be published on the MoD website.

The new policy is long delayed, but there is now a clear deadline. In the last week of May, a high-level MoD delegation will fly to Germany for the Berlin Air Show (named ILA 2008), which is scheduled from 27th May to 1st June.

The Berlin Air Show will be the international stage on which these top policymakers will field questions on DPP-2008. MoD sources say India's new procurement policy must be promulgated at least a week before this event.

The two-hour seminar in Berlin, on the afternoon of May 28, on 'Opportunities in the defence sector in India', has already been sold out.

Amongst those who will present the new policy in Berlin are Minister of State for Defence Production, Rao Inderjit Singh; Secretary (Defence Production), Pradeep Kumar; Director General Acquisitions, Shashi Kant Sharma and the Chairperson of India's top offsets body, DOFA, Satyajeet Rajan.

The Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Ashok Baweja, will also speak on the production capabilities of India's aerospace industry. HAL is expected to be a key player in a large number of offsets contracts that will arise from the Indian contract to buy 126 medium fighter aircraft.

Confirming to Business Standard that the MoD was aiming to release DPP-2008 on May 15, Minister of State for Defence Production Rao Inderjit Singh ascribed the delay to the need to come out with a comprehensive document that clarified all the issues around offsets policy, foreign direct investment in the defence sector, and the promotion of indigenous defence production.

Rao Inderjit Singh said: "The idea is to come out with a comprehensive DPP-2008. It has been built into the policy (DPP-2006) that every two years we will make what changes are necessary. So we'll have one in 2008; hopefully we'll have the next one in 2010. It's a continuous process of improvement."

The delay in DPP-2008 is also partly due to a more vibrant decision-making process within the MoD, where divergent opinions have competed on important issues, such as whether offsets should be enhanced from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, whether FDI limits in defence production should be raised from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, and on the implementation of the new offsets policy. It is the final decisions on these questions that have delayed the announcement of DPP-2008.

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Ajai Shukla in New Delhi
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