Updated: February 3, 2021 7:54:13 am
India’s calibrated response at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh brought stability to the standoff with China’s Army, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a curtain raiser for the government’s flagship biennial defence exhibition, Aero India 2021, which is to be held from February 3-5, Singh said the handling of the LAC situation also showed the country’s resolve to defend its sovereignty and integrity.
One of the highlights of the three-day show is the expected signing of the contract between the government and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 73 Mark-1A and 10 Mark-1 Tejas fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Earlier in the day, Singh inaugurated a new HAL plant which will produce the Tejas Mark-1A in Bengaluru. Speaking at the inauguration, Singh said, the deal — pegged at some Rs 48,000 crore — would be an immense boost to India’s defence needs as well as the government’s push for self-reliance.
“It (the deal) will take the Indian aerospace sector to new heights – it will improve the security of the country. It will boost the capability of the IAF. The third big achievement from the indigenous aircraft program is that it is not just about the protection of the country and its progress, but it also protects the self respect of all Indians,” said Singh.
In a sign that HAL and the indigenous fighter aircraft manufacturing programme — considered to be floundering two years ago after the loss of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal to Dassault Aviation — are back in favour following the Covid-19 crisis, Singh said the LCA deal will send a message to the world that the government is serious about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ programme. “How long will we go before other countries for the requirements of the defence of the country? We have been doing it for years. Our effort is to be self reliant,” Singh said.
“With the indigenous programme, the message that the country wants to be Atmanirbhar (self reliant) will not just go out in the country, but the whole world…” Singh said.
Singh said the Tejas Mk-1A was comparable and better than other international fighter aircraft in its class.
HAL is contracted to deliver the entire lot of 83 aircraft to the IAF over a nine year period – with the first delivery scheduled to be made 36 months after the signing of the contract.
HAL chairman and managing director R Madhavan said: “The HAL contract specifies that we have to supply the first aircraft within 36 months of the signing of the contract — that is starting tomorrow, (Wednesday) we have 36 months to deliver the first aircraft. Over the next year, we will deliver a small number. Total time of delivery is nine years including three. Three to six years we deliver all [the aircraft].”
Other key events at Aero India 2021 include the Indian Ocean Region Defence Minister’s Conclave, for which Singh had invited defence ministers of 28 nations of the IOR. A total of 18 nations are expected to have physical representation while eight nations are expected to participate virtually.
Singh also mentioned that a ‘Chiefs of Air Staff Conclave’ was scheduled during Aero India 2021, which would bring a host of senior Air Force officers from around the world “onto a single platform” and “provide an opportunity to enhance cooperation, collaboration and improve understanding of common threats and challenges being faced by us”. Officials said around 75 officers had been invited for the conclave.
While Singh will attend the inaugural function of Aero India, President Ram Nath Kovind will be the chief guest at the valedictory ceremony on February 5.
There are 600 exhibitors participating in this installment of the defence exhibition, of whom 78 are foreign participants. A total of 334 exhibitors will participate virtually. About 15,000 people are expected to attend the exhibition being held at the Yelahanka Air Force station — much lesser than the 40,000 last time. In view of Covid-19 protocol, this year’s edition will not have a day where the general public is allowed to visit.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines