Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
China is a major world power with the largest military of the world and the second largest economy in the world. China’s defence budget is four times India’s defence budget. India and China has a tense relationship over the last 60 years, including a major war in 1962. There have been regular clashes, ending with the recent violent conflict in Galwan Valley.
To tackle China in the long term, one major step would be for India to become economically strong with a robust indigenous manufacturing sector, including defence manufacturing. To boost the local economy entrepreneurship, startups and ease of doing business must be promoted and supported in letter and spirit. A lead has been taken with innovative policies like Start Up India, Make in India, Act East Policy, etc. These innovative schemes need to be strengthened and their implementation monitored at the ground level.
Everything boils down to ease of doing business. To simplify ease of doing business the requirements to start a business or industry like paperwork, permissions and bureaucratic procedures must be simplified and reduced. Other is to make the process of starting any business or industry through a single window.
Presently, there are numerous windows and a complex system of clearances and permissions. Clearances for industries, businesses must be simplified and fast-tracked. In fact there should be a separate ministry or department for ease of doing business at the Centre and the states. There is also a need to introduce easing parameters like tax holidays, power connections, power/transport subsidies, easy land allotment, soft loans, etc.
An additional way of supporting indigenous manufacturing is by a policy of preferential pricing and preferential buying as announced recently as ‘Vocal for local’. In must be made compulsory for all government departments and government-supported institutions to procure from local manufacturers. This ‘Vocal for local’ is especially applicable to the Northeast and Arunachal as there are negligible industries in the region.
It is extremely difficult for local industries to compete with products from the mainland due lack of supporting ecosystem and competition in volume. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a big lesson for this region as there were no manufacturers of PPE, sanitizers and masks in the region. In fact, many states imported PPE and Covid testing kits from China.
No nation can aspire to become a major power without producing its own weapons and weapon platforms. India must open up defence production to the private sector and invest in research and development to match contemporary technology. Presently, most weapons and weapon platforms are imported from other countries, including basic rifles for soldiers. We must aim to manufacture own fighter aircraft, tanks, ships, rifles, bombs, missiles, etc.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the recent Galwan Valley conflict are major lessons for India. India must focus on becoming a major economic power and manufacturing hub in the next few years and decades. This may be the only guaranteed way of tackling China in the near future. ‘Vocal for local’ must be promoted and supported. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)