Speaking at the Public Affairs Forum of India’s (PAFI) 9th Annual Forum 2022, Kumar said “we did not trust our ability to do well.” He hailed the rise of electronics manufacturing along with the recent upsurge in medical equipment manufacturing because of COVID-19. He further added that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) account for 80 percent of global military production and this imbalance needs to be taken care of as India is eying a permanent seat in UNSC.
India had embarked on a large initiative of building indigenous capabilities of aircraft manufacturing for defense.
The one thing that pandemic pushed countries towards was to improvise and pivot, and a lot of which happened in India. Giving such an example, Kumar said that one challenge for the country has been the lack of self-belief. “We are not willing to buy something which we will produce,” he said.
Citing a story during the pandemic, the official talked about his stint at MeitY where he met a company called Skanray Technologies, which manufactured ventilators. At the same time, he mentioned India had started incentivizing electronics manufacturing.
“Skanray was one company we had assessed and found to be good and we even supported them. Then one day they came and told us they were selling ventilators to eight countries in the world. However, in India, they are not recognized,” he said.
The official had then taken the issue up with the Health Ministry. He found that there was the Drugs Controls Act, which regulated medicines and medical equipment. Because of a lot of regulatory issues, many such companies were not properly recognised in India and could not sell.
Kumar added that until 2020 Skanray ventilators were not sold in India. During Covid, when every country was looking for ventilators, companies like Skanray and others burst into the scene with their homegrown tech
“In defense, we find the same story. We have produced items which have been there for a while, but refused to get accepted. We finally inducted the Arjun tanks, but they have sat there on the anvil for nearly four, five years,” he said.
He added we need to believe that our products are good, if not better than any other country in the world- both in terms of manufacturing and innovation.
“We may have to leapfrog certain areas of technologies where over the years we have been lagging, but in terms of innovation, we can definitely do much better,” he said.
Kumar says only a handful of countries around the world are in defense production and 5 countries in the world account for 80% of the defense trade. “These five countries are the five permanent members of the Security Council. The aspiration for India to become a country with influence in the next 25 years is closely linked to the development of defence manufacturing capabilities. In sheer size the sector may not be as big as electronics, but the overall influence that the defense industry creates in the global sphere is huge,” said Kumar.