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Rethink India! - MMRCA, ESDM & Data Privacy Policy

We need a fundamental rethink of the following national paradigms in respect of developing towards an industrial economy in the coming decades. Redefining technology acquisition by Strategic National Partnership in Defence & Electronics.

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In the geopolitical storm of bilateralism unleashed by USA, breaking down of globalisation is inevitable and dependence on a single source for weapon systems, requires a serious re-think of our proposals of Aerospace & Defence (A&D) purchases. In the same breath, the Electronic System & Design & Manufacture (ESDM) ecosystem, no clear outcome of our policies have been seen to impact our industrial development in the last decade. Amongst the crisis of globalisation, bipolarisation of power, embroiled Middle East, Brexit, global danger from Pakistan’s & North Korea’s nuclear arsenel and the Terrorism, the strategic choices we make now will create our future. Decisions would have enormous repercussions on the well being and future of our country and history will never forgive the generation that made the choices of our times. The British took advantage of a weaker, fragmented society in the name of language, religion and diversity of our land. Two important paradigms of an integrative-harmonious governance of the country and reciprocal access to market & data privacy with technology-transfers in India should become the cornerstones of Indian policy in the future.

We need a fundamental rethink of the following national paradigms in respect of developing towards an industrial economy in the coming decades. Redefining technology acquisition by Strategic National Partnership in Defence & Electronics.

India has been operating Russian, British, French and Swiss aircraft for over half a century. Decisions by various governments in the past 50 years haven't led to long lasting policies and funding to develop our A&D industry. In contrast, Singapore, Israel, Japan, Brazil, Korea and China have followed a consistent vision, policies and funding in building Industrial Complexes with considerable success. True hallmark for all these successful national journey’s was built on Trust with a Partner Nation. Think of partnerships between Japan, Israel, Brazil & Korea with the USA; and Singapore with Europe & USA. India did not build even a single steady relationship with any of the nations that could provide us technology for self-reliance or even interdependence. The MMRCA offers an opportunity to build a bridge between National Partners and not treat it like a piece of equipment purchase. Each and every country that built these strategic partnerships has industrialised and its citizens have access to the best of class jobs, education, health, financial security and safety of its borders.

The last major policy change in Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) was introduced in 2005 hasn't been very successful in attracting technology transfers due to multifarious reasons. With an equal length of coastline and land borders of the order of 15000 kms, it clearly needs variety of specialists airborne weapon systems to meet these threats. The world’s largest Aerospace & Defence (A&D) deal, the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), consisting of 110 fighter aircraft and worth USD 20.4 BN. It is one of the most conscientious deals that packs a platform capable of handling challenges of Air, Land and Sea with a zealot’s combat capability. The responders to the RFP would spare no corners to prove the capability of their platforms for the deal that is likely to spawn over $100 BN (as per one OEM) over the life cycle of the aircraft. The Transfer Of Technology clause in the RFP demands transfer 50% of critical specified technologies in the RFP. This essentially causes the cost of technology transfers to be included in life cycle calculations and are heuristically 15-50% higher.

As per the old crass British humour, the most creative fiction is written in the income tax returns of British companies and people; the responses to the RFP for MMRCA are likely to appear similar. While RFP writing is also an art, the world over and developed over the years of training to put in the best and opposing requirements for the same product; a balancing act is indeed performed at the time of evaluation. Given the available technology landscape, the premise of one single platform meeting all Qualifying Requirements appears to be dismal. Globally, fighter aircraft have been designed and operationalised for Air, Ground and Maritime roles quite differently, equipped and flown with different equipment suites like weapons, navigation, take-off & landing and handling capabilities. MMRCA, seeks to achieve all three requirements in one platform that can be modified, is in essence asking for virtually an impossible machine, whilst the possibility exists to have some limited capabilities of each configuration.

The seaborne operations require specific capabilities for carrier borne operations air-to-air combat, surface attack, Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Search And Rescue (SAR), Transport, weather observation , reconnaissance and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) operations. The take-off & landing capabilities are also very different, requiring VTOL, STOL, Catapult assisted takeoff and arrestor based recovery mechanisms. These technologies require very different design, operational specifications, Supply Chain, Storage and Reliability requirements. The surface and air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capability employ different flight characteristics, equipment, munitions and guidance capabilities. For example, the F18 & F16 fighter aircraft platforms are designed for specialised Sea and Air-to-Air & Air-Ground configurations respectively by two different USA corporations. Neither is used interchangeably.

It would be best to retire the existing processes of competitive bidding(T1 & L1) process and revert to National Partnership with the countries that offer weapon platforms that address India’s diverse needs, provides the envisaged transfer of technologies and domestic content in return of access-to-market and data in India. The would allow the Partners to respond to the real needs of the country instead of responding to RFPs in a 90-day timeline without truly committing to the requirements in the RFP. Most countries require their Parliaments or designated National Agencies to carry-out due-diligence to commit to such high-tech transfers, propose bills/ordinances to be passed before any such transfers are sanctioned. In a 90 day requirement, in the case of Indian DPP, it is impossible to commit to such demands.

The best way forward would be to break the MMRCA requirement into two aircraft requirements instead of one and inherit the rich technologies required by different platforms into the industrial complexes. The same needs to be tied into the next two generations of Aerospace and ESDM development partnerships. Partnering with a Nation with diverse ESDM systems could pump adrenaline into the development of industrial complexes while providing the much needed boost for the National Partner by benefitting from the world’s chip design leader thereby creating an interdependent trust that could propel the relationship into the next orbit.

Reorganising the Education System

Building an HRD system that allows to forecast the types of skills needed in the cutting edge of science & technologies for INDIA, instead of handing over our brightest minds to the world. It requires to build processes to get the brightest minds for India first instead of exporting them to other countries. Our education system must be redesigned to build breakthrough technologies, fundamental research & development and state-of-the-art products for India first instead of raising a generation that is vying for jobs in global companies. Instead we need our children to aspire to become designers of the best of class & state of the art transportation systems, space systems, A&D, communication systems, world acclaimed artists, sportsmen & sportswomen.

Great possibilities exist when we want to think of realigning our paradigms to see a composite or holistic picture on how interconnected is a Country’s Vision, policies, mission and processes are. Any breakdown in any of these interconnected processes leads to complete failure of the vision. For instance, when Singapore started out to acquire transfer of technology in the late 1950’s, it prepared a holistic plan of using the technologies interchangeably in Aerospace, Marine, Kinetics and civilian industrial use. The education system was geared to absorb these technologies and disseminate it to no. of professionals required in the advanced scientific disciplines in universities, schools, colleges and polytechnics. These processes between ministries were realigned for ensuring no friction to the path to achieving the Vision of a nation. Under similar circumstances, Japan’s educational system, policies on IPRs were copied from the global best practices and due importance was given to IPR policies, processes & procedures of the Partnering countries.

One of the best practice followed by developed countries require every University and Deemed University into a think tank for three dimensions of specialisation of Strategy for Economics, Technology and Defence over the next 100 years. India may like to follow a similar model.

Regulatory nature of Technology transfers

No rules have changed in sharing the greatest assets of military technologies by Partnering nations to another. During an era of bipolarism where dominance is based on technological superiority, they are the most guarded assets and before handing over these to another country, due diligence will be carried out under various processes defined. Some of the most advanced processes and controls exists in treaties of the United States of America by virtue of its international defence partnerships around the world. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), and—perhaps the most consequential of the three—the Logistics Supply Agreement (LSA) have already been signed along with a multitude of international treaties.

Such engagements clearly signal a deeper level interaction and possibilities of partnership in defence cooperation. In a journey of over 7 decades since independence, countries that gained independence around the same time have become developed while we have lagged considerably. Maths has never solved our biggest challenges for us. Neither have the Dollars & Euros solved our problems; I t is Trust and Friendship with Partners who are willing to walk with us will solve them together. The paradigm of Non Alignment has failed us.

Data Privacy

The race to capture data and occupy the top position on building Digital Life is quite necessary to build accurate Deep Learning Models (DLMs). This data accumulation and rendering HUMANS into “Human Model – SSN or AADHAR No” is making the people irrelevant, as most decisions would be verified by these models. Under the current data privacy laws, India has already lost considerable data to the developed countries. In contrast to the breakneck speed of accumulation of terabytes of data defining YOUR interfaces; in the near future, data itself would lose its relevance sooner than later. The paradigm of 'Minimal Viable Data Footprint' (MVDF) would accurately predict the outcome, is round the corner of 3-5 years from now. Technologies like quantum computing, superconductivity, multicore processing, Li-Fi, brainwave communication, wireless electric transmission etc are forever changing the digital landscape forever.

It is time to take advantage of the data of a 1.35 bn people (read market access) today as in a few years, integration of various technologies would render this advantage futile. Let’s not be the “ mineral to the next generation of products and services of the developed nations” ; instead turn it into a tool for acquiring partnerships that would define our future with interdependence and equity.

Looking 50 years forward Most developed economies look over a century of planning and partnerships. While our neighbours aren't going to change anytime soon; our partnerships need to be analysed in the light of existing geopolitical realities and current needs. The state-of-the-art aerospace technologies and the current pace of the next generation products are key to finding where to drop the anchor in the sea of partnership choices we have. This would be a decisive factor on the partnerships that we would require to keep up with technology developments in a competitive global landscape of the future.

In the current geopolitical theatre, India’s rising security needs and desire to act as a credible influencer at the global stage, the decision would be based on historical facts, credibility of technology and next generation of products under development.

National Change Management model Given the quantum of change management at hand, quantum of capital required and building a class of industrial complex requires the most important element in the change management is the People. Our Polity, Bureaucracy and Legal systems are still set in the colonial cast. This is the first element that needs to change. Bogged down in the red tape and inexperience in handling such large transformation requires investment in people and organisation structures based on global best practices and experience. Such offbeat talent is not only rare but also not visible. It would be suicidal to hire inexperienced professionals who have never handled large scale Transfer Of Technologies programs, delved into national policy and people transformation at a scale of 100’s of billions of dollars. It would be best to have faith in the partner in building such processes and adapt Organisation Development paradigms to see the impact of the transformations.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Data privacy Policy

Ajay Batra

The is Founder, World Intellectual Property Rights Bank

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