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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Professor Dr. Daulat Singh Kothari - a doyen of Defence Research in India [Weekend Reading]

20110807-Daulat-Singh-Kothari-Defence-India-01Professor Dr. Daulat Singh Kothari was, arguably, one the most prominent individuals who played a critical role in setting up the infrastructures required for carrying out defence research & development in India. It was under his leadership that India set up the Defence Science Organisation [DSO], the precursor to the Defence Research & Development Organisation [DRDO]. The DRDO was later created by consolidating the various other defence labs being run under the jurisdiction of other administrative bodies. Thus, quite rightly, he is called the Architect of Defence Science in India.


The talk he had given as the then Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister of India holds true & has become even more relevant in this day and age we live in,

Science and warfare have always profoundly influenced each other. This has grown with the growth of science itself and now modern warfare is completely dependent on applied science (-war has been described as applied science-1 and methods of precision mass manufacture which originated in the last few decades........

....In any country the standard and efficiency of weapons and equipment of its fighting services is, in the ultimate analysis, largely, if not entirely, determined by the technological and industrial potential of the country. Any marked disparity between them is neither possible, nor, if artificially sustained, can it survive for long.

Not only was he a well-regarded Scientists, but also his knowledge about religion and spirituality evoked great admiration & respect - a truly well-rounded, multi-faceted personality he was. His dedication to his work & persona has left a lasting impact on those who came in touch with him.

DRDO's contributions towards the research & development of relevant military technologies needed for India's security & defence requirements must be recognised and give all the credit & adulations that it deserves. But for the work by its Research Labs, India's deterrent capabilities against external belligerence would be all but non-existent. A lot has been achieved, but the process of developing capability & ensuring continual deterrence is work-in-progress & is bound to be so for the foreseeable future, owing to the increasing threat perceptions the country faces from the belligerents & their policies & intentions. DRDO's role is critical in ensuring the continued deterrence & possible, subsequent escalations.

At the same time, it is equally important for any organisation to evolve itself, making its relevance & activities more in sync with developments elsewhere. With the passage of time, DRDO has expanded & the number of research institutes it oversees has increased. As a result, the nature of work it has undertaken too has diversified, often overlapping with work done, not only by the private Indian enterprises, but also with other non-defence-related government-run research institutes under different administrative jurisdictions. As it stands today, the portfolio of research DRDO undertakes extends from quasi-Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles [ICBMs] to mosquito repellants.

DRDO had been set up in order establish a consolidated set of capabilities and infrastructure needed for defence research that was sorely lacking in the private domain in India post-independence. As the years have passed, however, private enterprises in India have been able to assimilate capabilities & demonstrate their ability to perform and handle work involving the highest-end of Technology spectrum. Duplication of work in allied government research institutes towards the same goal is a doubling of expenditure that one can definitely do without. It also does not justify the financing, when a DRDO institute set up to certify airworthiness of military aircraft involves itself in designing trollies for carrying & handling bombs.

It is, therefore, imperative that recommendations made in the Rama Rao Committee report are implemented & implemented yesterday. Following a successful implementation, DRDO will have consolidated its expansive spread of Research Institutes into a few, focused organisations dedicating time & efforts to the most critical & strategic of technologies & projects. The remaining would be available for taking up by private enterprises in the country. Going by current indicators, there is certainly no dearth of such aspirating enterprises. It is only the rigid, restrictive government policies currently in vogue which hinders their participation or even if currently allowed, the procedures & limitations imposed are too stringent to be a viable proposition for the private sector. Tentative steps towards implementing those recommendations are only just being taken - lets see how it plays out.

It is also suggested that DRDO re-orient itself, acting in the manner of a Chief-mentor to these private sector companies, guiding them, holding their hands as they take the first few tentative steps in this field. With rich experience & vast repertoire of knowledge gained in the past 50+ years of operation, DRDO is most suitably positioned to play such a role & it must.


Earlier: Dakshin Gangotri Station: Pride of India [Antarctica] [suggested weekend reading]

Understanding Nuclear Energy and Technology [suggested weekend reading]

Know your Jammu & Kashmir [suggested weekend reading]

Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas: the people & their pursuit (weekend reading)