Making an unexpected appearance at a webinar hosted for the defence manufacturing industry in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday underlined the importance of the “special sector” and said self-confidence in defence is important for the creation of a modern and self-reliant India.
“Our commitment for a self-reliant India is not inward-looking. The aim is to create a capable India for creation of a more resilient and more stable global economy and for peace in the world,” the Prime Minister said.
He said “India has the capacity to become a dependable supplier of military equipment for many of its friendly countries”. This, he said, “will also strengthen India’s position as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region”.
The government, he said, is stressing on moving away from the model technological transfer to co-production through joint ventures with foreign partners. “Looking at the market size, the best option for the foreign partners is to manufacture in the country,” Modi said, and added that a self-reliant India is a “win-win commitment” for all, including the private sector, the public sector and foreign manufacturers.
Addressing representatives of the defence industry in the country, Modi said, “For a modern and self-reliant India, there is a necessity of self-confidence in defence.”
The Prime Minister said “it is not hidden from anyone that India has been for many years one of leading nations among the largest defence exporters in the world”.
India, he said, “had a lot of capability for defence production” when it gained Independence as “at that time over a 100-year-old ecosystem for defence production existed” in the country. But “there were no serious efforts” for many decades after Independence to boost the defence industry in the country and “many nations who started after us have raced ahead of us in the last 50 years”, he added.
The Prime Minister said the situation is changing and the government is “trying to unshackle the industry”.
The Prime Minister said the government’s move to open up the defence industry to 74 per cent FDI under the automatic route is also “the result of self-confidence of new India”.
“For decades ordnance factories were being run as government departments because of a restricted vision… The sector that could have created the opportunity for employment of crores of people, its ecosystem was very limited. Now, we are moving forward corporatisation of the ordnance factories. It will strengthen the labour and the military,” he said.
The government has also decided to set aside a part of the defence acquisition budget for the domestic industry, Modi mentioned, and highlighted that the list of 101 weapons, platforms and military equipment that will be embargoed for imports will be expanded.
Speaking earlier in the webinar, CDS General Bipin Rawat mentioned that another no-imports list could be announced early next year and could even be larger.
He also mentioned that the government has an investment target of Rs 20,000 crore in the next five years for defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the CDS conducted an interactive session with the industry leaders. The government mentioned that the Request for Proposal for the P75i project to build six Scorpene-class submarines is under review and will be issued soon.
Another major naval project that is in the pipeline is for the 111 Naval Utility Helicopters for which the Expression of Interest was issued in February 2019. During the webinar, a number of industry members voiced reservations about the inclusion of Defence PSUs in many of the projects that require a foreign manufacturer as a partner, especially the project for the Naval Utility Helicopters.
Two other important steps the government mentioned were about the defence procurement. A Project Management Unit to support contract management will be set up in the coming days, it said. It was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in May. Also, the defence procurement manual of the Defence Ministry is being reviewed, the government said.
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