The Ministry of Defence (MoD) figures estimate that India is likely to spend close to $30 billion on defence modernisation in the coming seven years, making the country one of the largest defence markets in the world, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh has said. Speaking at the Gateway of India dialogue conference in Mumbai, organised in association with the Ministry of External Affairs, Singh said prioritising indigenous manufacturing of defence platforms in India in the last two years had received a significant boost. “The government has taken several steps to promote defence manufacturing in India, including raising the FDI cap for the defence sector to 49 per cent with a provision for further increase if access to state-of-the-art technology is being provided,” he said.
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On India’s ties with US, Russia and China, Singh said, “The recent visit of the Prime Minister to the US earlier this month or the participation of (then) President Obama as the chief guest at the 2015 Republic Day celebrations reflect deepening of this relationship. Breaking new ground in our defence relationship and creating new frameworks for cooperation on issues such as cyber security and climate change demonstrate a new maturity in our relationship. With Russia, the traditional strategic sectors of engagement — defence, space, nuclear energy — have seen healthy progress while efforts to add a significant new ‘economic pillar’ to our strategic partnership, through mutual investments, promoting better market access and expanding tourism and people-to-people ties, have intensified following exchanges between President Putin and the Prime Minister. With China, Indian policy has been recalibrated to focus on deepening and widening economic engagement with China, in particular, in areas such as infrastructure and investments, while continuing to engage on outstanding issues between us.”
“Where SAARC works, we are happy to move forward within the SAARC framework and on issues that see scant progress there, we are open to working with willing partners at a sub-regional level,” he said.
Singh said a new area of focus had been the projection of philosophical and creative traditions of India. “This has been demonstrated in innovative initiatives such as the success in getting June 21 declared as the International Day of Yoga in the United Nations. We are also focusing on India’s Buddhist heritage to reach out to large sections of the population of East and Southeast Asia,” he said.