India has potential to be reliable arms supplier: Rajnath Singh

Bengaluru: India has chartered a plan to build defence partnerships with nations on the Indian Ocean rim while strengthening ties with immediate neighbours.

Participating in a series of seminars and conclaves in connection with on-going Aero India 2021 here, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said: “India has a vast coastline but our interests are beyond our shores, touching various continents, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Whether it is piracy, security, disasters or any other need, India has always offered assistance and we want to be a reliable partner, in line with Prime Minister Modi’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) initiative,” Singh said Wednesday. The plan has gained strength with India’s growing defence capabilities.

While speaking of the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region, the minister emphasised on the volatile situation along the LAC without naming the country. “There are attempts to change the status quo (along the borders) but India is alert and prepared to defeat such attempts,” Singh said.

“The domestic defence market is growing. We’ve earmarked $130 bn for military modernisation for the next eight years. The defence sector has been opened up and we encourage foreign OEMs to collaborate with Indian firms,” he said. “A high-level committee has been formed to expedite clearances needed for exports. India has the potential to become a reliable supplier of defence equipment and there are 5,000 MSMEs in the sector apart from one of the fastest-growing startup ecosystems,” the Defence Minister said.

India would touch a turnover of Rs 1.7 lakh cr in the next three years, including Rs 35,000 crore worth of exports, he added.

At another meeting, the Defence Minister and Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria underlined the need for enhanced partnerships between friendly nations. They were speaking at the conclave of the chiefs of air staff (CAS) in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Conclaves like these provide an excellent opportunity to address security challenges and provide mutual benefits amid changing threat matrix and changing nature of warfare,” Bhadauria said. With the advent of new technologies, the understanding of national boundaries has shifted beyond classical definitions, he added.

“Recent conflicts show how warfare is changing. India is building capabilities to handle this. Budgetary constraints limit our goals of building armed forces. Given this, we must have a robust mechanism to share technologies and best practices,” Singh said. The conclave saw representation from 40 countries.

Attacks now originate without warning several time zones away, he said. Exponential technological progress has made access to technologies like drones easy for both state and non-state actors. Such technologies are lethal and agile, he added pointing that nations have to be a couple of steps ahead.

“Space-based assets are both force multipliers and targets. In the digital game, software has become as key as hardware and adversaries are increasingly targeting this. The degree of anonymity and remote operations of such adversaries has created the need for new mechanisms,” he added.

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