Modi makes ‘Make in India’ pitch for military hardware

BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted a steep increase in domestic manufacture of military hardware and put an end to India’s dubious distinction of being the largest importer of defence equipment.

“If we could raise the percentage of domestic procurement from 40% to 70% in the next five years, we could double the output in our defence industry”, the Prime Minister said at the inaugural function of Aero India Expo, a five-day aviation industry conference here on Wednesday.

He said India had the reputation of being the largest importer of defence equipment in the world. “That may be music to the ears of some of you (present) here. But, this is one area where would not like to be Number One”, Mr. Modi told the gathering that included top executives of hundreds of aviation and defence firms, including Boeing and Dassault besides defence ministers of at least 10 countries.

Referring to India’s huge purchases of military hardware, Mr. Modi said the country’s security challenges and international responsibilities were well known. “We have to equip ourselves for future needs..… As a nation of one billion people, we also have our have huge requirements for managing internal security”.

He quoted studies showing that even a 20 to 25% reduction in imports could directly create an additional 1,00,000 to 2,00, 000 jobs in India. “Think of the spin off benefits on other sectors in terms of advanced materials and technologies! That is why we are focusing on developing India’s defence industry with a sense of mission. This is why it is at the heart of our Make in India programme.

The Prime Minister said his Government was reforming the defence procurement policies and that there would be a clear preference for the equipment manufactured in India. Recalling that the permitted level of foreign direct investment (FDI) had been raised to 49 per cent, he said this could go higher if the project brought state-of-the art technology.

He emphasised the need for taking defence R & D from out of the confines of Government laboratories by involving scientists, soldiers, academia, industry and independent experts. He also noted that the defence industry in the private sector was quite small. “This is despite the fact that nearly 60 per cent of our defence equipment continues to be imported. And, we are spending tens of billions of dollars on acquisitions from abroad.

Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar and the top brass of the Army, Air Force and Navy were present at the function which was marked by a dazzling display of aerobatics.

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