The recent crisis provoked by the revelation of the highly classified technological specifications of the Scorpene submarines jointly built by DCNS of France with the cooperation of Navantia from Spain highlights gravest dangers to the security of some of the most important international actors of the world, including India. Normally defence powers are meticulous about the security of their technology, especially in a world where industrial defence espionage is one of the most serious threats. The Scorpene submarine leak shows that a few competitors will not only want to steal the technology of other, but will also try to break the trust that any potential client could have by exposing secrets so irresponsibly.
In today’s world, too much is known about the defence systems that are sold on the international markets, but only the ones that the leading defence industrial nations produce for themselves and don’t share with any other country are the best-kept secrets. This argument alone justifies that the leading nations of the world develop their own defence industry, which has been possible because of the quality of their scientists and a solid industrial base. That is the case of the US, the UK, France, China, and Israel, and it could also be the case of India, a nation with world-class scientists and a promising hi-tech industry.
The development of defence technology is a powerful booster for the economy and society, and has greatly contributed to the progress and technological advancement of the world—take, for example, the GPS, helmets or firefighting material.
The call for tightening of the security of classified information and technology is another stinging reason for India to expedite the process of building a seriously protected national defence industry. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has proven to be a useful instrument in developing the industry, but it needs to be able to effectively pass from an idea to a prototype and from that to the industrial production of the system. It is here where the main problem lies—the fact that it sometimes takes decades to effectively develop the industrial production of some of DRDO’s best designs.
During my tenure as ambassador of Spain to India, I had frequent and intensive contacts with DRDO. It’s an excellent instrument that has far greater potential than its present exploits suggest. It also enables India to interact and cooperate with those countries that are not only willing to transfer their latest technology—something very rare in this field—but also develop the latest generation technology as a joint venture. This is something very few admit to be ready to do, and even fewer actually accomplish.
In the defence sector, Make in India is not only an effective and legitimate means to enhance the economy and create high quality and specialised jobs, but is also, and perhaps above all, a means to protect India’s sovereignty, better defend its interest and citizens, and keep highly sensitive secrets from being stolen or leaked. The defence industry has become one of the basic pillars of security and defence of the leading industrial nations.
The 21st century is becoming a complicated place for anything related to security and defence. We depend so heavily on computers and transmission of data, and that opens a wide flank of danger to the security of sensitive information. The better the technology to protect secrets, the harder hackers and rival countries try to break it. If you look at who is lagging behind in science and technology, you will most likely find the smoking gun of those that try to steal someone else’s ideas and breakthroughs, as they have been incapable of developing their own. It also happens to be those nations that are more expansionist or aggressive. Do we really need to spell it out more clearly?