Edited excerpts: Both PM Modi and Defence Minister Parrikar have visited US and the government says it is working to enhance ease of doing business in India. In that context, what are the hurdles that you recommend should be removed?
The real positive over the last 18 months has been the willingness to enter into a dialogue with everybody, domestic and foreign companies, to get everybody’s point of view on what some of the challenges are with doing business in India. It is well recognised that India is not where it wants to be on the ease of doing business index, but I think the government has applied enormous energy to knock down some of the issues in ease of doing business, and we have seen the results of that. India has moved up the ease of doing business list. I wouldn’t want to pick on any specific area, I think whichever country you operate in around the world, there are challenges in certain areas. The encouraging thing here is the focus of the government to make ease of doing business a lot easier. We have seen some positive results in that regard. The path or the trajectory is absolutely right to make things better for doing business, and that’s not just for a foreign OEM, but for everybody doing business. That’s necessary to encourage the levels of investment that the government wants and needs. The government is taking on the challenge, and that is good.
Lockheed has been pitching to sell its Javelin missile system to India for some time now. What is the progress on that front?
If a deal comes through, will critical technologies of the missile be manufactured under ‘Make in India’? The Javelin is an offer by the US government to the government of India. The dialogue is between the governments. As a company along with Raytheon, we are fully in support of that dialogue and Javelin is also included in the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between the two governments, which essentially underpins the willingness of the US government to share technology, and to co-produce and co-develop future weapon systems in India. So to answer your question briefly, yes, we are very willing to share technologies, and we are very willing to co-produce and co-develop future versions of the weapon system in India.
India’s indigenous missile systems are good; how does Lockheed look at the country as a market for its own missile systems?
You are right, the Indian missile systems are good and there are certain missile systems of Lockheed which are complementary to the weapons that are already manufactured here in India. So we believe that there is a market, for some of our capabilities, such as Javelin for example. Anything we do in India, particularly with ‘Make in India’ and being in partnership with Indian companies, whatever technologies we bring will be in partnership with probably one of those existing missile manufacturers to bring additional capabilities. So we see India as a good market for some of the capabilities that we have got and we will be very keen to partner with Indian companies to bring those capabilities to the country.
Does the company see India becoming a hub for manufacturing its major defence projects?
We have some experience of this already, for the joint venture activity that we have in Hyderabad, both with Sikorsky on the helicopter side and also Lockheed Martin Aeronautics with the C-130J, where we manufacture significant aerostructures…we have built up experience over the last six or seven years in manufacturing in India to give us confidence to go to the next stage. So, you would have heard that we have offered to build the F-16 here in India. So we are ready to move to the platform level. I think that once we are able to do that, the ecosystem around that builds up over time which will enable the manufacturer of that platform to not just offer it for consumption in India, but also any other country which wishes to procure it. So, yes, I can see that there is a roadmap for India to be a major manufacturing hub in aerospace and defence and it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes some time to build up the ecosystem.
But if the current trajectory is maintained by the government, then there is a good opportunity to do that. Are there any other ‘Make in India’ deals in the pipeline?
Lots! We are continually looking for partners. If the Javelin deal happens, it will be a Make in India project. F-16 will be a ‘Make in India’ project, more helicopter programs for the Navy will be Make in India projects. Everything that we are looking at recognizes what the Indian government wants to do. We are very willing to do it, if we have the right partners. The decision needs to be made to go with our product and then we will do it.