Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said attempts from within the country or abroad to harm India’s interests must be thwarted effectively as he cautioned the armed forces against various new challenges including “disinformation” campaigns. Addressing a naval seminar, Modi also batted for a “whole of the nation” approach to combat myriad security challenges, saying they are no longer limited to land, sea and sky and asserted that the armed forces must work together to bolster the country’s military capabilities.
Highlighting the importance of self-reliance in the defence sector, the prime minister said dependence on imports for small requirements of the armed forces could pose serious strategic challenges. Cautioning the armed forces against new threats, Modi said contours of national security have become widespread and the challenges are moving towards space, cyberspace, social space and the economic sphere.
“We also have to intensify our war against forces challenging India’s self-confidence, our self-reliance. “As India is establishing itself on the global stage, there are constant attacks through misinformation, disinformation and false publicity, etc,” he said at the ‘Swavlamban’ seminar.
“Keeping faith, the forces harming India’s interests, whether in the country or abroad, have to be thwarted in their every effort. National defence is no longer limited to borders, but is much broader. “Therefore it is equally necessary to make every citizen aware about it,” he added.
The prime minister said: “As we are moving forward with the ‘whole of the government’ approach for a self-reliant India, similarly, the ‘whole of the nation’ approach is the need of the hour for the defence of the nation.” He said that the “collective national consciousness of various people of India is the strong basis of security and prosperity”. The seminar was organised by the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
In his address, the prime minister said his government has developed a new defence ecosystem in the country to boost domestic defence manufacturing. In the last 4-5 years, Modi said, the defence imports have come down by about 21 per cent and the country is moving fast from being the biggest defence importer to becoming a big exporter.
The prime minister said Rs 13,000 crore worth of defence export was achieved last year and more than 70 per cent of it was from the private sector. He lamented that during the initial decades of Independence, there was no focus on the development of defence production and research and development were severely limited as it was restricted to the government sector.
“Innovation is critical and it has to be indigenous. Imported goods can’t be a source of innovation,” he said, stressing the need for a change in the mindset of “attraction for imported goods”. Talking about long delays in defence acquisition, Modi said most of the procurement programmes kept facing questions and abusing politicians became very easy.
“It kept going on for years and as a result, the armed forces had to wait for modern equipment for decades, he said. Recalling the glorious maritime tradition of the country, Modi said that the defence sector of India used to be very strong even before independence.
At the time of independence, there were 18 ordnance factories in the country, where many types of military equipment including artillery guns, were made. He said India was an important supplier of defence equipment in World War II.
“Our howitzers, machine guns made at the Ishapur Rifle Factory, were considered the best. We used to export a lot. But then what happened that, at one point in time, we became the world’s biggest importer in this field?” he asked. He said like the countries who capitalised on the challenge of the World War to emerge as big arms exporters, India too turned adversity into opportunity during the COVID-19 period and made strides in economy, manufacturing and science.
Referring to the importance of oceans and coasts in India’s economy, Prime Minister Modi said that the role of the Indian Navy is continuously increasing and therefore self-reliance of the force is of critical importance. In the last eight years, Modi noted, the government has not only increased the defence budget, “we have also ensured that this budget is useful in the development of the defence manufacturing ecosystem in the country itself.” “Today, a large part of the budget earmarked for the purchase of defence equipment is being spent on procurement from Indian companies,” he said and complemented the defence forces for preparing a list of 300 items that will not be imported.
The seminar was attended by NSA Ajit Doval, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar among others.