India defence drive attracts global suppliers

India's drive to protect itself after last year's Mumbai attacks is attracting interest from some of the world's biggest companies who see opportunities in the push for improved homeland security. The government, after shunning the private sector for decades, is embracing it as an ally in the quest for new security strategies and technologies following the Mumbai bloodbath last November that left 166 people dead.
"Indian companies right now don't have the capability, but they are acquiring it through overseas joint ventures as the opportunity is huge in the homeland security domain," says Amit Singh from the Confederation of Indian Industry.

"Public sector enterprises cannot meet this demand."
India plans to spend 30 billion dollars on military contracts by 2014, while junior defence minister Pallam Raju announced last week a separate 10 billion dollar homeland security upgrade to be completed before 2016.
"There are significant opportunities for the private industry to partner in the homeland security and sub-conventional warfare space," Raju told a military meeting earlier this month.
India began opening up its defence industry to the private sector in 2001 and allowed foreign firms to own 26 percent of local ventures, although a surfeit of red tape put off many companies.
Seeking to encourage investment in Indian industry, Raju said New Delhi would acquire up to 70 percent of its homeland security hardware from the domestic private sector.
US-based Raytheon and Boeing, Germany's Carl Walther, Britain's BAE Systems and France's Thales are among the scores of firms now seeking a piece of the pie.
Along with the traditional defence suppliers, interest is coming from non-military firms, such as software giant Microsoft, IT company Cisco and Motorola, the US telephony group.
"We are working extensively with various agencies in India to make technology which will help you concentrate on your mission," Subodh Vardhan, head of Motorola India told the military meeting.
India had previously focused defence spending on its conventional military, but the Mumbai raids exposed poor communication, outdated equipment and weak border controls, and led to a reappraisal of priorities.
Like other countries, India realised that it needed new strategies to fight threats from militant groups, both homegrown and external.
The country plans to arm its paramilitary police with new weaponry, anti-mine trucks, drones and body armour, as well as acquire the latest security surveillance gear, communications and software.
India's 29 states have already begun upgrading their police forces, with plans to take on 150,000 new recruits.
To source its hardware, India had previously ignored the Indian private sector because of its total dependence on the Soviet Union for weapons imports.
But within a decade of the Communist bloc's breakup, bickering with Russia over costs and delivery prompted the government to crank up domestic production.
According to retired Lieutenant General Vinay Shankar, Indian industrial houses staking claims in the sector include Larsen & Toubro, Tata, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej Boyce and Bharat Forge.
"Following them, are a large number of second and third tier companies covering a wide range of technologies," he wrote in the latest edition of India Defence Weekly military magazine.
In a recent address to an internal security summit attended by state chief ministers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cited "credible information" that militants in Pakistan were plotting new attacks on India.
New Delhi blames Pakistani "official agencies" for abetting the militant attack in Mumbai.
India also faces myriad internal security threats, including insurgencies in seven of its northeastern states and a rebellion by Islamic separatists in disputed Kashmir.
Bomb blasts last year rocked the cities of Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Guwahati, Jaipur and the capital Delhi, and Maoist rebels are now active in more than half of the country's 29 states, particularly in the east.
A previously little-known defence think tank, the Group for Forecasting and Analysis of Systems -- or G-Fast -- has grouped together military scientists to adviseNew Delhi on its security policies.
"In sub-conventional warfare the challenges are quite a few because technologies are emerging and terrorists are adopting them," G-Fast director Manik Mukherjee said.
"We need to re-look and re-engineer existing technologies to meet the challenges," he said, urging companies to participate in areas spanning military communications, computer software, manufacturing and research.
Foreign and domestic groups are set to be out in force at India's first ever homeland security exhibition -- Indesec -- to be held in October inNew Delhi.
It has already drawn 130 private firms from 20 countries, with the largest contingent of 20 firms from Israel.

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