DRDO should focus on areas where it can deliver: PM

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of delays in several key military projects, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said indigenous content in defence procurement was "low" and asked DRDO to focus on areas where it has the capacity to deliver within reasonable time.

The remarks come at a time when several of the key Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) projects including the development of the Light Combat Aircraft and Kaveri engine for it have been delayed resulting in cost and time over-runs.

"The reality is that share of indigenous content in defence procurement continues to be low. We need to take a hard look at the pipeline of our projects and focus our time and material resources on selected areas where we have demonstrated capacity to deliver projects within reasonable time and cost," the Prime Minister said at the DRDO Technology Awards function here.

He said there was a "net deterioration in international strategic and security environment and political uncertainties in our neighbourhood, civil strife and turmoil in the Middle East, terrorism and threats to cyber security present complex challenges that require both conventional as well as technological responses."

Noting that the government was committed to modernising the armed forces, Singh said, "Question is how we can procure the requisite cutting edge technologies and platforms, even while promoting indigenously developed technologies that meet the required time and quality assurances standards."

He said in the longer term, the country will have to build domestic defence industry including both the public and private sectors which can compete with global players in developing state-of-the-art technologies and on commercial parameters and customer satisfaction.

Referring to the Naresh Chandra Committee report, the Prime Minister said it has also suggested a long-term policy for increasing indigenisation of defence production and high-tech industries in consultation and collaboration with the private sector. "A committee led by Ravindra Gupta is looking into this specific aspect and I look forward to receiving its findings soon," he said.

Singh said he would "like to see a flagship national project on a major system in which DRDO can use its research and development expertise and synergise it with the production and project management skills available in our private industry."

"Such collaboration will bring greater efficiency to the work of DRDO and also allow it to focus on its core mandate of research and development," he said.

Commenting on Rama Rao Committee report on ways to reform DRDO, the Prime Minister said it has highlighted that "growing difficulty" in attracting and retaining high-quality scientific manpower can "slow down" the development of high- technology sector.

Observing that there were "no easy solutions to this problem", he said, "We have to change our current bureaucratic system of administering scientific and technical departments, particularly if we have to inspire young scientists to participate enthusiastically in the task of building India into a scientific and technological powerhouse".

He said that DRDO "organisationally too" should aim at becoming leaner and making the best use of its human, financial and technological resources.

Congratulating DRDO for the successful test firing of the over 5,000 km range Agni-5 missile, Singh said, "It shows depth of our technical talent and capacity to manage large and complex projects when we put our heart and mind to them."

The Prime Minister also praised DRDO for the "initial operational clearance of LCA `Tejas` and maiden flight of a fully modified aircraft for the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System.