The Financial Express [FRONT PAGE][ECONOMY]

Sunday, May 25 1997

Going global via self-reliance

Any measure that gives even the farthest hope of indigenous technological muscle being strengthened must be welcome even in these days of globalisation. This is all the more so in the developing countries. In that respect, certain recent technological breakthroughs in India and Malaysia are heartening. The involvement of private sector companies in the exercise should satisfy the market-wallahs. As for India, the development pertained to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

India plans to develop new UAVs or robot planes for surveillance. It is said that India is also eyeing possible future export of a series of indigenously designed and developed UAVs. The Defence Research and Development Organisation is set to develop at least two new UAVs based on India's Nishant UAV-1, a low-cost aerial target and reconnaissance system, Kapothaka, and another capable of being launched from aircraft in flight, called Ulka. Kapothaka will be smaller than the Nishant, with a flight endurance of 90 minutes and a payload capacity of 20 kg. Ulka will be capable of simulating the speed and altitude of a variety of enemy aircraft using false radar signatures. It will be designed for launch from subsonic or supersonic aircraft and can perform missions between 50 feet and 13,000 feet at 1.4 times the speed of sound. A private company, Taneja Aerospace, Bangalore, has been contracted to build UAV airframes. Avionics and payload systems integration will be performed by the Aeronautical Development Agency. The Indian Army will be the principal user of Nishant, which will transmit reconnaissance pictures.

Another bid for a breakthrough is in the nuclear field. The Indian Government is negotiating with Russia for the construction of two light water reactors with a total capacity of 2,000 MW to be located in Tamil Nadu. The Union Minister of State for Power, S Venugopalachari, has gone on record that Russian assistance was being sought both for funding and technology. The supply would conform to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards. That preliminary surveys in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra indicate presence of a few rare-earths should be a matter of encouragement. Promising uranium reserves have also been found in the states of Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Uranium is already being mined at Jaduguda, Bhatin and Narwapahar in the Singhbhum district of Bihar.

Going to South-East Asia, Malaysia has announced that it would consider using a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite once the available mass facilities of the Malaysia East Asia Satellite (Measat) begin to be fully utilised. At present, priority is given to optimising Measat. This was indicated recently by the Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Minister, Leo Moggie. Future LEO satellites may have their uses especially in providing special facilities that are not provided by other satellite systems. That this information was provided at a congregation of 35 countries participating in IWTS' 97, jointly organised by the Mara Institute of Technology, Telecommunications Department of Malaysia and Ericsson Malaysia, assumes considerable significance. One can only hope that these efforts will be matched by bureaucratic efficiency and political will -- not necessarily in that order -- in all the countries involved so that nothing hampers serious efforts towards technological progress. The globalisation lobby, for its part, should accept these initiatives as a necessary step to improve the Third World's competitive edge and bargaining strength at global fora.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.



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