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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Depending on import of weapons can be fatal for strategic autonomy: Rajnath Singh


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New Delhi: Highlighting the Government’s vision of attaining self-reliance as soon as it came to power, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the nation cannot remain dependent on import of weapons or platforms as it can be fatal for strategic autonomy.

Addressing a gathering of industry leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and policymakers after launching Acing Development of Innovative Technologies with iDEX (ADITI), during DefConnect 2024 at Manekshaw Centre here, Rajnath Sing said, “Without self-reliance, India cannot take independent decisions on global issues in line with its national interests”.

“Strategic autonomy can be maintained only when arms and equipment are made in India by our own people. We are working towards this, and the results are positive. While in 2014 our domestic defence production was around Rs 44,000 crore, today it has crossed the record figure of Rs one lakh crore, and growing continuously. This change took place due to our consistent efforts. Tough decisions had to be taken. Status-quo had to be disrupted,” the Defence Minister said.

He added that several measures have been taken to promote domestic manufacturing, including earmarking 75 per cent of defence capital procurement budget for Indian companies.

Singh highlighted the efforts being made by the Government to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence production, including notifying positive indigenisation lists of major platforms and equipment that are being or will be manufactured in India.

He also suggested to the Department of Defence Production (DDP) that “In the coming 4-5 years, we should come out with a short negative list containing items that will be imported and we should strive to eliminate that list to achieve complete self-reliance”.

The Defence Minister emphasised that governance and commerce or business are codependent and the private sector needs a platform to flourish, which is being provided by the Government to achieve the goal of strengthening the economy.

“Many aspects such as law and order, healthy and skilled workforce, rule of law and research and development ecosystem are needed to provide a platform for the private sector. Society and the government together provide these requirements so that the private sector moves forward and boosts the productivity and capacity of the economy,” he added.

H described ‘getting a hold on state-of-the-art defence technology’ as the most crucial aspect to achieve self-reliance due to the increasing role of cutting-edge technology in warfare in today’s time.

“Technology can be mastered either by adopting the latest innovation from other countries or by developing our own. The Government is working on both methods, he stressed,” he added.

Stating that the idea behind schemes such as ADITI, iDEX, iDEX Prime is to transform India into a knowledge society said that as times are changing, new technologies are coming into existence. To become a developed country, it is necessary for us to achieve a technological edge. There is a need to transform the country into a knowledge society.

Speaking about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the Defence Minister said, “Under offset, we are acquiring technology from various countries through FDI. But, like this, we cannot obtain best technologies as countries never share their latest innovations. This is why there is a need to develop the required technologies on our own”.

“For this, we need Research and Development (R&D). There are a number of conditions that need to be fulfilled to establish a productive R&D ecosystem. India has a large workforce of energetic and skilled youth who are committed to taking India forward in the field of technology. Our youth are fully empowered to make India self-reliant in the defence sector, and the government is providing them with the environment to touch greater heights,” he said.

On iDEX (ADITI) scheme, the Defence Minister said that the scheme will nurture the innovation of youth, and help the country leap forward in the field of technology. Moreover, under the scheme, start-ups are eligible to receive grant-in-aid of up to Rs 25 crore for their research, development, and innovation endeavours in defence technology.

The ADITI scheme worth Rs 750 crore for the period 2023-24 to 2025-26 falls under the iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence) framework of DDP. It aims to develop about 30 deep-tech critical and strategic technologies in the proposed timeframe. It also envisages creating a ‘Technology Watch Tool’ to bridge the gap between the expectations and requirements of the modern Armed Forces and the capabilities of the defence innovation ecosystem.

The event also witnessed the launch of the 11th edition of Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC), heralding a new chapter in the collaboration between the defence establishment and the start-up ecosystem.

As part of DefConnect 2024, a technology showcase was also organised by iDEX-Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) with a diverse range of technology start-ups at the forefront of innovation in the defence sector.

Present on the occasion were Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt, Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and other officials.

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