Defence ‘Atmanirbharta’ key to robust Indian economy

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Defence ‘Atmanirbharta’ key to robust Indian economy

Saturday, 06 August 2022 | PK Vasudeva

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for stepping up indigenous defence goods production is timely

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 25 July, while addressing a naval seminar Swavlamban, said that the national defence is no longer limited to borders, but has a broader ambit, and the armed forces and other stakeholders must work together to bolster the country’s military capabilities. Attempts from within the country or abroad to harm India’s interests must be thwarted effectively, cautioned Modi, asking the armed forces to be alert against new challenges, including disinformation campaigns.

He batted for combatting a myriad of security challenges, saying they are no longer limited to land, sea and sky, and asserted that the armed forces must work together to bolster the country’s military capabilities. The seminar was organised by the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).

The NSA Ajit Doval, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar attended the seminar among others. The concern of the prime minister is very genuine but unfortunately he is not getting the support from the opposition parties even on national security and defence matters. A disintegrated opposition with poor leadership is a disaster for the nation.

The Opposition’s right and duty, if it believes the public interest is at stake, is to oppose the government’s policies and actions by every legitimate parliamentary means. In doing so, the Opposition tries to convince the electorate that they should change places with the government, which is impossible unless it changes its attitude on issues of national interest.

Highlighting the importance of self-reliance in the defence sector, the prime minister said dependence on imports for small requirements of the armed forces could pose serious strategic challenges. Cautioning the armed forces against new threats, Modi said contours of national security have become widespread and the challenges are moving towards space, cyberspace, social space and the economic sphere.

We also have to intensify our war against forces challenging India’s self-confidence, self-reliance, said Modi, adding as India is establishing itself on the global stage, there are constant attacks through misinformation, disinformation and false publicity. Keeping faith, the forces harming India’s interests, whether in the country or abroad, have to be thwarted in their every effort, he added.

Defence is a principal component of national power. Defence policy is an integral part of national security policies. The role of the armed forces is to preserve the core values of survival and political independence against any external or internal threats by deterrence or by waging a war. In his address, the prime minister said his government has developed a new defence ecosystem in the country to boost domestic manufacturing. In the last 4-5 years, Modi said, the defence imports have come down by about 21 per cent and the country is moving fast from being the biggest defence importer to becoming a big exporter.

The prime minister said Rs 13,000 crore worth of defence export was achieved last year and more than 70 per cent of it was from the private sector.

Talking about long delays in defence acquisition, Modi said most of the procurement programmes kept facing questions and abusing politicians became very easy. Recalling the glorious maritime tradition of the country, Modi said that the defence sector of India used to be very strong even before independence. At the time of independence, there were 18 ordnance factories in the country, where many types of military equipment, including artillery guns, were made. He said India was an important supplier of defence equipment in World War II.

Referring to the importance of oceans and coasts in India’s economy, Prime Minister Modi said that the role of the Indian Navy is continuously increasing and therefore self-reliance of the force is of critical importance.

Today, a large part of the budget earmarked for the purchase of defence equipment is being spent on procurement from Indian companies, said Modi, while complementing the defence forces for preparing a list of 300 items that will not be imported.

Modi’s mission is to make the country Atmanirbhar so that the defence budget is further reduced and the benefits go to domestic industry. In the era of economic globalization with more interdependence among the countries and the facilities of digital marketing and communication available, it is difficult to think that any country can survive in isolation.

A country is said to be Atmanirbhar (self-reliant), if it produces sufficient amounts of goods and services for its domestic needs along with surplus for export to earn foreign exchange. An Atmanirbhar country need not necessarily manufacture each and every product required by it. Rather, it will prefer manufacturing and processing more such products which it can do with expertise at low cost and the demand of which is globally more. At the same time, it cannot indefinitely depend on such countries that are dumping their low quality goods and are destroying the industrial growth of the importing country.

(The author is a retired professor of international trade)

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