lack of self-reliance is one of the foremost problems I see in Indian defense in critical areas like aircraft, energy, communication equipment, micro-electronics like microprocessors, and very rudimentary adoption of Information technology and cyber defense capability.
• Imagine a scenario where China, Iran, and Pakistan combine their naval power to cut off India’s access to the Arabian sea from where India gets its oil, which powers its economic and military engine. How will Indian Army run its tanks and trucks? What about jet fuel? Will our fleet be useless if access to oil is cut off? It might be a difficult scenario to accomplish but if it happens, I am afraid we will be caught with our pants down. I don't see any move towards energy independence in Indian defense forces.
This could be achieved with solar and local microgrids, innovations like converting tanks to use DC power if needed. Instead, India’s domestic solar industry is being killed by cheap Chinese equipment and no support from tax regime.
• Aircrafts have been the bane of Indian defense acquisition. There was some hope that Tejas will provide a critical self-reliance in future defense needs, but with US dumping 1970s F-16s on India, all hope is now lost. We are the only air force in the world to be a united nation of global fighter aircraft manufacturers.
Mig 21, Mig 27, Mig 29, Su-30, Mirages, Jaguars, F-16s, Tejas, British Hawks - all this means a variety of maintaining inventories, spare parts, and engineering talent. Look at Pakistan on the other hand, they have their own JF17 even if it is not as fast or lethal, they own independent manufacturing and maintenance of the plane. Same for transport planes and helicopters.
• Like all Indians, even Indian defense personnel use smartphones made in China or Taiwan. Even if phones are assembled in India their electronics and software are made outside. They can be used as tracking devices as shown by Edwards Snowden in NSA exposes.
• Cyber defense. In 2014, I had the fortune of showing a 60-year-old senior RAW executive what Google was. Another time, I met a senior bureaucrat who used Gmail for official communication. I also attended a 2014 seminar on cloud technology where a KPMG associate director chaired a panel discussion of bureaucrats who discussed among other things how the cloud was not a reliable technology yet, and won't work during monsoons in India. I don't have high hopes from India in Cyberdefense after these interactions. I know there might be capabilities in pockets of DRDO, but the thing about Cyber defense is that they look for the weakest link to break into the system.