Self reliance in defense production

Self reliance in defense production

Addressing two day National Seminar on “Defense Production, Security through Self Reliance”, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa underscored the need for closer and active public-private partnership to make the defense goods manufacturing industry vibrant, self reliant and self sustained. The COAS vividly highlighted the rationale and inevitability of induction and indegenisation of latest technologies through fully integrating Public and Private Organisation in defense production.

In a number of countries of the world the civilian and war goods industries go hand in hand. The defense production industry of Pakistan has progressed appreciably despite the resource constraints, difficulties in the acquisition of contemporary modern technologies, lack of coordination between relevant ministries and no back support from the private sector industries. The manufacturing of fourth generation multirole fighter jet JF-17 thunder, main battle tank and autarky in the production of small arms give Pakistan an edge over other countries of the region. But on the contrary the industrial base of civilian goods industry has, by and large, remained stagnant on second generation technology of 1960s. It was growing and expanding industry which was almost destroyed by the nationalisation programme during 1972-76. Steel and other metallic alloys producing industries are vital for defense production but Pakistan Steel Mill (PSM) was made a sinking ship by overstaffing of political appointments and imposing corrupt and inefficient management. This public sector entity had annually earned a profit of Rs.380 million from 2000 to 2007. But it has been huge losses incurring state enterprise from 2008 and onward and has to be shut down.

The COAS has rightly emphasised the acquisition, induction, application and indegenisation of modern technologies because these are the perquisites to revive the economy, stabalise it and put it on the road towards progress and prosperity. But the induction and indegenisation of latest technologies both in civilian and war goods industries need significant per capita increase in spending on Research and Development activities by reinvigorating the existing institutions of Research and Development. A comparative data of per capita investment in Research and Development by the South Asian countries, Turkey and Israel reveals an utter neglect of this very important component of national development and progress in Pakistan. South Korea started from scratches in the decade of 1960s but now its per capita investment in Research and Development is $1,518.47 which is 4.292 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). India’s per capita spending is $39.7 which is 0.85 percent of its GDP. Malaysia’s per capita expenditure is $344.3 and in relation to GDP it is 1.3 percent. Likewise, Turkey allocates $198.3 as per capita expenditure which is 1.007 percent of its GDP. Israel’s per capita expenditure on Research and Development is $1,361.56 or 4.3 percent of its GDP. Ironically, Pakistan spends $13.29 per capita which is 0.29 percent of GDP. This is the worst case scenario.

The strengthening and modernization of institutions of Research and Development had been neglected in the past government and even in the present government it is out of priority list. The Minister of Science and Technology, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain visited the Lahore center of Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research last month. He was told about the dearth of funds, deficiency of human resource and technical infrastructure and was presented a proposal how to overcome these problems. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing to the proposal on cogent reason, the minster publicly ridiculed it. It reflects the mindset detrimental to the promotion of skill development, research and development activities. It remains to be seen how the proposal of minister for defense production Ms.Zubaida Jalal pertaining to the formation of task force under the Prime Minister materializes to establish Public-Private Sector partnership for defense production.

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