AN INSIDER'S VIEW OF DRDO
Geopolitics|August 2021
Institutions that shaped modern India: DRDO
Prakash Nanda

Author: Ravi Kumar Gupta

Publisher: Rupa Publications

Pages: 232

Price: ₹395

DRDO recently test-fired an advanced variant of the nuclear-capable and canisters Agniclass of missiles (Agni-Prime anti-ship ballistic missile) with a range of 2,000 km on June 28, 2021. The successful test is one of the major achievements of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). But, can the DRDO claim to have lived up to the overall expectations when it was created on January 1, 1958?

Ravi Kumar Gupta, who served as a scientist in the DRDO for almost 35 years and superannuated as Director of Public Interface at the DRDO headquarters in New Delhi, has just authored a book on DRDO (Rupa Publications, 2021) that has tried to answer the above question.

The book assumes significance in the context of the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” policy, under which the Modi government has not only banned the import of more than 200 (209, to be precise) weapons, platforms, and defence equipment but also endorsed “making” India a major exporter of arms in near future.

At the first glance, Gupta’s book, which is an insider’s account, deals with DRDO’s achievements as it has evolved over the last 63 years, particularly in the areas of missiles of various kinds, including the Agni-series and the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile BrahMos; fourth-generation plus light combat aircraft, Tejas; state of the MBT, Arjun; a multi-barrel rocket launcher system, Pinaka, with guided rockets; an airborne early warning and control system (AEW&C); and a wide spectrum of radars, electronic warfare systems, laser instruments, and supercomputers among others.

On closer scrutiny, however, Gupta seems to have admitted that notwithstanding the DRDO, India until recently was the world’s largest importer of defence products and is currently the world’s second-largest importer after Saudi Arabia.

Although Gupta does not say so in clear words, he seems to realise the importance of two serious drawbacks of the DRDO as far as its overall performance is considered.

One, it promises more but delivers less. There have been undue delays in the completion of its major projects. Two, more often than not, the armed forces are not satisfied with the quality of its products and avoid using them.

However, Gupta is candid enough in his book to highlight some inherent limitations that the DRDO has been plagued with. Three of them are particularly noteworthy.

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