Lagging factories hamper India’s industrial rise

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/28 21:13:41

A fire on the Indian Navy's sole serving aircraft carrier was predicted by Chinese military expert Zhang Zhaozhong several years ago, who said there was a strong risk of fires on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

The reason for the fire is yet to be ascertained by Indian authorities but media reports said a blast in a steam pipe in the engine room is believed to have led to the fire. While it is still too early to determine the cause of the incident, management and maintenance loopholes exposed by the fire are alarming for the emerging manufacturing nation.

Aircraft carriers are not only seen as symbols of a nation's military might - they also represent its industrial prowess. There are many technical obstacles when it comes to building a complex facility like an aircraft carrier. India has joined the aircraft carrier club with three out of its four aircraft carriers having been purchased from foreign countries, but it is impossible to import the newest generation of aircraft carriers because every nation wants to win in the field of military competition. India unveiled its first domestically built aircraft carrier in 2013, but some naval engineers said the carrier wouldn't be operational for a long time.

India's economy is still in the early stages of industrialization, and its  manufacturing sector has grown fast but has yet to become truly sophisticated. The problem arises especially when it comes to defense industries and the expertise needed to build aircraft carriers. There have been frequent accidents in India's aircraft carrier program, and India's limited manufacturing ability is a big reason.

China had no aircraft carriers until 2012 when its first one, the Liaoning, was commissioned, because the sophisticated manufacturing process required to build aircraft carriers prompted China to be prudent. India may be too hasty in pursuing its aircraft carrier ambitions. India has in recent years made some achievements in advanced science and technology fields such as aerospace. However, its underdeveloped manufacturing sector will become a major bottleneck in the  aerospace and other advanced technologies in the future.

About 200 US companies are seeking to move their manufacturing bases from China to India, according to media reports. Problems exposed by India's aircraft carrier development remind those companies that they may face tough challenges in the country as they seek to replicate their sophisticated manufacturing processes.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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