Aug 14, 2014
Recently, while visiting the head office of a US publication I write for regularly, I was surprised to hear myself as was my editor, to hear me wax eloquent on the new government and its plans and how we as Indians finally saw hope on the horizon. For a person reporting deals and scams for the past few years, this was a transformation, and the editors eagerly offered me numerous assignments.
Digging a bit deeper for my stories, I sadly found the same bureaucratic mindset and stubbornness to change and a ministry making unofficial leaks, ensuring journos hear their point of view alone. Twitter and a news agency is now the government’s mouthpiece and they do not reply to queries!
Dear lord- this administrative inertia is what I had not voted for! I had voted for a promised change in policies to push India ahead, a fresh mindset and a freedom of expression- within limits of course.
All this was reinforced after I read a story on Rolls Royce being pulled out of the defense blacklist due to ‘operational reasons.’ Nobody in the MoD confirmed nor denied this. Rolls has heard neither of the blacklist nor its pullout! So much for clarity. If we do not make transparency our policy as it has never been in the past, afraid we will continue to keep business out of our country. So much for mega export and manufacturing plans! Besides, do we really expect OEMs to do business with us, invest heavily, when they do not even know if they are allowed to work with us at all?
Take Finmeccanica. Till today, our new govt. has kept decisions at abeyance. Now at least following the Italian court’s judgment, we know the company was not at fault. If ‘operational’ reasons are good enough to bring back one company, then why not another? The group is involved in railways, aviation defense. So, will we stop running our railways, pull out the ILS from airports?
Defense has even larger connotations. We need to recognize that barring our own HAL and DRDO, that want to produce every part indigenously, the rest of the world has moved on to a global supply network. Even Kamov helicopters have a Selex system. Do you want to ground Kamovs too?
Today the torpedoes order is on hold. As is the RFP on the Navy multi-role helicopters. Selex radars and naval guns are other products whose fate hangs in balance. Will India hold up spares for Sea Kings? What happens to the only indigenous Avro replacement project- the pride of India’s private sector? Unless a decision is made, this is bound to become a single vendor situation, and as many in its ilk, be swept away even as the security of the country cries out for help.
Frankly, I resent my tax money rotting as the three AW101 VVIP helos stand in a hangar for want of rotables just because some political party wanted brownie points to look clean.
Perhaps the minds making these faulty decisions do not realize that our armaments including missiles that are loaded on Rafale, Mirage, and Jaguar are all from MBDA- part of the Finmeccanica group along with other European companies. Should we blacklist them too? NDA talks proudly of the benefits of manufacturing. Take the civilian AW119 Tata-AW JV manufacturing facility festering even as the FIPB unapproved and then approved the project. I will not be surprised if the company is holding the project back in the hope that it will one day get approval in writing not through a journalistic source.
Many OEMs presently looking at doing business in India said while they had great hopes that change would be the mantra of the NDA government, they do not see much action on ground. While we agree it’s only three months since the new administration has taken charge, it’s time for clarity on decisions- whether they are palatable or not. That's the only way new business will come in and trust will be formed.