Gandhinagar: Being a show of the Defence Ministry, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had a heavy schedule on the third day of the five-day 12th DefExpo which is the biggest ever so far being held here from addressing seminars to giving awards and holding bilateral meetings with his counterparts from African nations.
Speaking at a seminar “New Frontiers in US – India Defence Cooperation: Next Generation Technology, Innovation and Make in India,” he invited US companies to set up manufacturing units in India and develop technology collaborations with Indian industries to create a global supply chain free from vulnerabilities and uncertainties.
He told the seminar organised jointly by US-India Business Council (UIBC) and Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) that the Indian defence industry has been witnessing transformative changes for the last eight years through progressive reforms. He stressed that these reforms have created a conducive environment for the growth of the Indian Industry through transparency, predictability and institutionalisation of several measures for Ease of Doing Business.
Emphasising that the path to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is a comprehensive set of policy frameworks, he said that it seeks to build indigenous technological and production capacity and capability with cooperation, participation and collaborations with reputed institutions and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) from friendly nations. He said, the idea is to manufacture in India for the Indian market as well as export to friendly countries, i.e., ‘Make in India, Make for the World’.
“The main objective is to fulfil the requirements of Indian Armed Forces; and at the same time, create long-term linkages to the global supply chains of the foreign OEMs to meet global demands. Through these linkages, India looks forward to collaborating for a secure and resilient global supply chain for the free world to ensure uninterrupted and reliable access to defence equipment and other strategic materials for our nation and our partners, including the US. As India’s defence base grows, private sector companies from the US can explore the vast potential for ‘Creating in India’ and ‘Exporting from India’,” he said.
The Minister highlighted a number of steps taken by the Government to achieve the objectives including increase in the number of procurement categories to encourage greater participation of the Indian Industry and attract foreign companies to manufacture in India. “We are delighted to work with US, our valued partner, to strengthen our commercial and strategic relationship and to attract US investment for creating a high-technology defence production ecosystem in India. For India, collaboration with US companies would be an important strategic force multiplier, apart from being wealth and job creator,” he added.
The minister described the Positive Indigenisation Lists, in which a wide spectrum of equipment/systems are included, as another major step towards creating a mature defence industrial base in the country. The list has also given impetus to domestic Research and Development by attracting fresh investment into technology and manufacturing capabilities by providing a measure of demand assurance to the manufacturers in India, he said.
Singh described the project agreement to co-develop Air-Launched UAVs, under the auspices of the India-US Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), as a welcome development. He stated that industries from both sides can explore additional DTTI projects, such as a counter unmanned aerial systems and an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance platform.
Speaking at another seminar organised by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), he said India must set new goals according to the constantly-evolving global scenario and research and development, with active private sector participation, for that is the way to achieve the preparedness required to deal with future challenges.
At the seminar ‘Atmanirbharta in Defence R&D – Synergistic Approach,’ he listed out a number of policy reforms undertaken by the government to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence crucial for staying ready to deal with future security challenges. He made special mention of the announcement of fourth positive indigenisation list of 101 made by Prime Minister Modi while inaugurating the DefExpo 2022, terming it as a matter of great pride that now over 400 defence items will be procured from domestic vendors.
The Minister also spoke about the decision to dedicate one-fourth of the defence R&D budget to industry led R&D, saying that these are just some of the many steps which have laid the foundation of a strong self-reliant defence industry, sufficient to equip the Armed Forces with latest weapons/equipment. He exuded confidence that with the active participation of the private sector, the Armed Forces will be better prepared to deal with security challenges faced by the nation.
“India has embarked on a journey of self-reliance of R&D in defence. Private sector will play a crucial role in taking us to the destination. Both public and the private sectors are the wheels, with which the R&D vehicle will move towards complete self-reliance. With collaborative efforts of the Government and the industry, we will realise the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’,” Singh said.
He highlighted the crucial role played by DRDO in synergising the efforts of the industry, academia and Defence R&D towards fuelling India’s mission of ‘Atmanirbharta’. He lauded DRDO for contributing towards enhancing the capability of the Armed Forces by developing various futuristic and first-of-its-kind innovations and technologies. He added that the organisation is no longer a sole service provider for defence R&D, but has also become a facilitator for in-house R&D and the private sector.
The minister also presided over the signing of MoUs with academic institutions and Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO), Indian Navy for the formation of DRDO-Industry-Academia – Centres of Excellence (DIA-CoEs). The academic institutions included IIT Roorkee, IIT Jodhpur, IIT Hyderabad, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Kanpur, IIT BHU and Bharatiya University. These centres act as research nodes for the country in identified subjects which are building blocks for futuristic technologies. The MoUs with academic institutions will initiate the work in the focussed areas for advanced research in defence. Long term and short-term research areas will be balanced to address the current needs and lay the foundations for futuristic technologies
At another function, Singh gave away Raksha Mantri’s Awards for Excellence in defence and aerospace sector for the year 2021-22 to Indian Defence Industries, including the private sector.
A total of 22 awards were given under various categories viz. Indigenisation/Import substitution, Innovation/ Technological Breakthrough and Exports. Of these 22 awards, 13 were bagged by private industries and the remaining by the DPSUs/PSUs. These awards were equitably given to enterprises of various sizes, i.e., large, medium, small and start-up enterprises in order to provide a level playing field.
Speaking at the awards function, Singh emphasised that the core objectives of these awards are to encourage and reward all-round excellence in various dimensions of organisational performance, facilitate widening and deepening of industrial base in Indian defence and aerospace sector by identifying ‘hidden gems’, especially from MSME/ start-Up segment and promoting them as role models for others. He appreciated the fact that the awards have been re-established from 2022, incorporating private industries. This will boost the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ of the government and encourage the development of these companies, he said.
The minister described the Indian defence ecosystem as beautiful and promising amalgamation of the Government and defence manufacturing industry. While appreciating the present joint efforts which has bolstered the defence sector, he called for continuous collaborative efforts for sustainable growth of this ecosystem.
The day also saw him holding bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Madagascar, Mozambique, Mongolia and Suriname who also participated in the India-Africa Defence Dialogue and Indian Ocean Region Plus Conclave. In the course of the meetings, Singh met with Lt Gen Rakotonirina Leon Jean Richard, Minister of National Defence, Madagascar, Cristovao Artur Chume, Minister of National Defence, Mozambique; Saikhanbayar Gursed, Defence Minister of Mongolia and Ms Krishnakoemarie Mathoera, Defence Minister of Suriname.
The entire spectrum of defence cooperation was discussed during the meetings, with focus on identifying avenues to expand mutually beneficial collaboration.