India is bringing economic growth and the strengthening of defence capabilities on the same platform, with the Ukraine crisis showing that national prosperity is linked to security, defence minister Rajnath Singh said. In his address at The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence in Mumbai on Saturday, the minister said India is moving towards a strong, secure and prosperous future, where hard power and soft power complement each other.
“It is clear that only a prosperous country can afford adequate defence spending in the long run, invest in human resource development and create a science and technology ecosystem,” said Singh, who was chief guest at the event, arguing a case for Make in India, self-reliance and curbing imports of weapon systems. The minister praised colleague and finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, winner of the ET Award for Business Reformer, for introducing wide-ranging reforms, ensuring vital government spending on defence, health, education, infrastructure and social welfare, as well as eliminating irrational and illogical rules and laws.
“Her efforts towards deregulation to clear the deadwood of archaic rules and illogical compliance burdens give concrete meaning to the Prime Minister’s directive of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’,” Singh said. The defence minister also said several policy initiatives had been launched in recent months to promote the participation of Indian industry in defence manufacturing, including three positive indigenisation lists.
“With the (import ban) lists, we have been able to give Indian companies contracts worth over Rs 54,000 crore,” he told the audience of top ministers, bureaucrats and industry leaders. “We hope this will increase to over Rs 4.5 lakh crore in the next five to seven years.” The measures included corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board, reserving 25% of the capital budget for private industry, ensuring free transfer of technology from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and opening up the sector to startups and joint ventures. Singh made special mention of his ministry’s Innovations for Defence Excellence (Idex) platform that funds military technology development projects being pursued by startups. The grant budget for such projects has been enhanced from Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 10 crore, with import substitution a key priority, he said.
On the Ukraine conflict, Singh said the prevailing situation has led to commodity-driven inflationary pressure across the world, particularly with regard to fuel and food. Pointing out that crises such as war and Covid-19 were beyond anyone’s control, the minister said he had full confidence that India would overcome such challenges. “India is poised to continue as one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world,” the minister said. “The export numbers are record breaking and the trend is likely to move further up.”
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