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In recent months, India has taken steps to protect its military technological capabilities by banning the use of Chinese components in the manufacture of domestic drones. India’s security leaders are worried that sensitive military data could be compromised if Chinese-made parts are found in the communication functions, cameras, radio transmissions, and software of surveillance drones.
The move comes as India continues to modernise its military by investing in unmanned quadcopters, long-endurance systems, and other autonomous platforms. To combat possible risks, India has implemented this ban through military tenders, with documents outlining the security loopholes of using Chinese-sourced components. These restrictions involve replacing Chinese-made components with parts sourced from other countries.
The ban has had an inevitable impact on the domestic manufacturing of military drones, pushing up the cost as vendors are forced to source components elsewhere. In addition to the lack of Chinese components, India also faces a lack of technical capability to manufacture certain types of drones. To bridge this gap, India purchased 31 MQ-9 drones from the U.S. for over $3 billion.
To help India’s domestic industry, the government has promised to invest one-quarter of its 232.6 billion rupees budget in defence research and development into the private sector. To ensure the success of this investment, there needs to be a national strategy in place to fill the technology gaps and develop commercially viable products.
Adventurous venture capitalists will be tempted by the idea of investing in military projects, despite the long lead times and risk involved, given the potential for growth and high returns. To truly expand the industry, however, India needs to be ready to accept the higher costs associated with producing domestically, as this investment need not only be fiscal, but also put in place measures to ensure that adequate security is provided and maintained