DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy says India must produce state-of-the-art systems. (File)
To implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi's idea of an "Atmanirbhar Bharat" in the defence sector, India must turn from being one of the largest importers of weapons in the world to the largest exporter, said G Satheesh Reddy, chairman of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Speaking at the online India Foundation Dialogue 75, the DRDO chairman said that several steps had been taken in different sectors to inculcate "Atmanirbhar Bharat" in defence.
"When one talks about self-reliance in India's defence technology, it means that we should have the design, development and manufacturing capabilities for particular equipment or weapon systems that are required by our armed forces. Although in the last two decades, we have made significant strides in our technology, we are still one of the largest importers of defence equipment, arms and ammunition in the whole world," Mr Reddy added.
"What we are doing is not sufficient. Many things need to be developed and we must produce state-of-the-art systems, rather than importing from outside. Generally, we are followers of new technology. This has to change. We need to develop first of its kind, home-grown systems that others should want to buy from us," he said.
He said the Prime Minister had given very specific instructions to make all the required changes in order to indigenise weapons, adding that the DRDO had started several initiatives and schemes to draw more people into defence, including inculcation of relevant courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.
"From being one of the largest importers, we have to become the largest exporter. In order to achieve this, our country's academia must work on core research areas. We have so far established about eight centres of excellence for this kind of academic research work and with various schemes, we are trying to develop many core technologies which will greatly benefit our future generations. Thousands of crores have been invested in 200-300 projects and we hope to yield good results in the coming years," he said.
He also added: "With the Ministry of Education, we have also picked about 500 PhD students who will do their research at DRDO labs and take our defence problems as their research subject. They will have guides from academia as well as scientists from the DRDO. In the next 4-5 years, we will have extensive research material on 500 defence-related problems and their potential solutions."
He said that defence was going to be introduced as part of college curriculum by this year, and B.Tech and M.Tech students were already given similar elective subjects.
"We have brought in certified courses through our academic institute in Pune called DIAT (Defence Institute Of Advanced Technology) wherein a lot of people study artificial intelligence and cyber tech. These courses have just started now and per year at least 1,000 people in each course will be trained and certified in these areas," Mr Reddy said.
He said that between 5,000-10,000 students were doing projects with the DRDO and many schemes were being brought to provide paid apprenticeships for the students.
Mr Reddy said that the DRDO had risen to the occasion and declared that we would be working more on the critical and advanced state-of-the-arts systems only. Design and development would be incorporated from the industry.
"The Ministry of Defence has announced a list of 101 items that will not be imported from outside at all and will be made, designed, developed and produced in the country. A new update to the list is soon to come. The DRDO has also opened test facilities and over 1,700 patents to the industry so that more manufacturers and developers can have the support of the DRDO wherever it is required," he added.
The DRDO chief said that a new scheme called the technology development fund had been established for the indigenisation of imported systems. Firms and companies who think they have the capability to produce such items here will be fully funded by the DRDO.
"If our country is going to be prosperous, industries must not only supply to our own armed forces but export to other countries in large number," Mr Reddy said.
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