Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani on Wednesday sought infrastructure status for the aerospace industry for realising the government's Make in India initiative, adding that the group was readying to foray into the defence landscape.
"We need to accord infrastructure industry status to aerospace, paving way for easier credit and greater role and opportunity for the private sector," Ambani said at a global investors' meet held as part of the Aero India 2015 trade expo in Bengaluru .
"My presence here today demonstrates our commitment as a Group to the development of India's defence industry - our desire to be part of the prime minister's Make in India initiative, Ambani said, adding: "As you know, we didn't have a footprint in India's defence landscape. But we are now ready to change that - in a big way."
Speaking of the "many policy changes" that the government has announced - starting with the raise in FDI cap in defence from 26 to 49 per cent and, with cabinet approval, even to 100 per cent in identified areas of critical technologies, Ambani said: "There is recognition that what we need is a 180 degree change in mindset".
"There is need to acknowledge at every level of government that the private sector in India can be trusted to play as important a role in India's defence up gradation as the government sector.
"We need a common framework for defence procurement across research establishments, ordinance factories, defence PSUs and private sector. Decision making needs to be simpler, faster and transparent.
"We need to set up a sovereign defence fund (SDF), on a PPP model, in which the government holds 49 per cent while private defence sector players make up the balance, with no player contributing more thanfive per cent of the total," Ambani said.
"Professionally managed, such a fund can help invest in long-gestation R&D projects and facilitate strategic global acquisitions in key technology areas of defence and national security," he added.
Ambani also lamented that decision-making in the defence sector was hamstrung by sheer regulatory censure and investigative over-reach, saying the long shadow of three Cs - CBI, CVC and CAG - were stalling decisions at all levels of the government.
"This needs to be changed and we need to have two new Cs added - courage and conviction," Ambani said at the meeting, presided over by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on the margins of the 10th edition of the air show at the Yelahanka base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the city's outskirts.
Hinting that his group would foray into defence sector in a meaningful way, Ambani recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling him that even teargas shells used by security agencies were imported.
A few months ago, I met the prime minister soon after he assumed office. At one point during our conversation, he looked up at me with anguish and said: "Anil, do you know, that even the tears we shed in this country are not our own? Every tear gas shell that is used by our security agencies is actually imported!"
"Modi's statement was an eye-opener to me in terms of his vision to put the country on the forefront of defence manufacturing," Ambani noted.
Observing that delays in defence procurement had caused greater loss to the exchequer than any alleged impropriety, the group chairman said though the road ahead was long, tough and arduous, the country had the best chance to succeed under the present leadership.
"To my mind, the model in which state-run enterprises and the private sector can work together should have three Cs - commitment, collaboration and cooperation to transform the prime minister's Make in India campaign into reality," Ambani added.
Ambani also complimented Parrikar for transforming the working of India's defence establishment
"Parrikar was one of India's most dynamic and successful state chief ministers before the call of national duty brought him to Delhi and in a very short time, he has built himself a reputation for being a man of action and principles," said, adding: "His hands-on decision making and out of box thinking has transformed the working of our defence establishment.