Need to modernise defence forces, says PM Modi at Aero India show in Bengaluru

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Bengaluru: Expressing confidence that India would emerge as a major global centre for defence industry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday promised conducive business environment for domestic as well as foreign players, including a discrimination-free tax system.

Inaugurating ‘Aero India’ show, the Prime Minister said the country needs to increase its defence preparedness and modernise its forces due to security challenges that were well known and invited foreign firms to become India’s strategic partners rather than remaining just sellers.

He said government’s focus is to reduce imports and develop domestic defence industry with a sense of mission, which it “is at the heart of our Make in India programme”.

“We will build an industry that will have room for everyone – public sector, private sector and foreign firms,” he said, adding the intention of the government was to develop a dynamic defence industry.

Modi said a strong defence industry would not only make the country more secure but also make it more prosperous.

“We must ensure that our tax system does not discriminate against domestic manufacture in comparison to imports,” he said at Asia’s premier air show at the IAF Yelahanka air base on the city outskirts.

The Prime Minister said India’s defence industry will succeed more “if we can transform the manufacturing sector in the country”.

Stressing on the need for reducing imports, Modi said, “If we could raise percentage of domestic procurement from 40 percent to 70 percent in next five years, we would double the output in our defence industry”.

He also said studies have shown that even a 20 to 25 percent reduction in imports could directly create additional 100,000 to 120,000 highly skilled jobs in the country.

Modi also spoke about involving country’s scientists soldiers, academia, industry and independent experts more closely in research and development.

Modi said as a nation of one billion people India also has a huge requirement for managing internal security. “We are increasingly integrating technology and systems into it,” he said.

The Prime Minister also told the participating overseas delegations that for too many of them India is a major business opportunity with the reputation as the largest importer of defence equipments in the world.

“That may be music to the ears of some of you here but this is one area where we would not like to be number one,” Modi said at the biennial event, being attended by more than 250 Indian companies and 300 foreign firms.

Defence Ministers, senior officials, and hundreds of business leaders from around the world are also in attendance at the largest ever AeroIndia, where Modi government’s “Make in India” programme is in the spotlight.

“Our security challenges are well known, our international responsibilities are evident, and we too need to increase our defence preparedness. We do have to modernise our defence forces. We have to equip ourselves for the needs of the future where technology will play a major role,” he said.

Highlighting that a strong defence industry would not only make India more secure, but also prosperous, he said, “I am confident that India will emerge as a major global centre for the defence industry.”

He said Government wants to develop an industry that is dynamic and it should constantly stay at the cutting edge of the global industry.

“Aero India can be a catalyst in realizing our goals. That is why I am here today,” he said.

“For me this is not just a trade fair for defence equipment. This is a mega meeting of one of the largest global supply chains with the most advanced technologies and complex equipments and a platform to launch India’s defence manufacturing sector.”

Modi said a nation with the strong defence industry would not only be more secure, it would also reap economic benefits, boost investment, expand manufacturing, support enterprise, raise the technology level and increase economic growth in the country.

In India, the defence industry in the government sector alone employs nearly two hundred thousand workers and thousands of engineers, he said.

Foreign firms are vying with one another to align with the “Make in India” campaign of the Narendra Modi government as they eye the booming multi-billion dollar Indian defence market.

The 10th international edition of the aerospace and aviation exhibition has participation of 54 ministerial and other high-level delegations from several countries. Over 600 companies, including 295 Indian and 328 foreign companies, are taking part.

The US with 64 companies has the biggest presence at the event, said to be the largest ever air show to be hosted so far in India, in which 33 other countries are taking part.

France is the second biggest participant with 58 companies, followed by the UK with 48, Russia with 41, Israel with 25 and Germany with 17, organisers said.

Indian Air Force Sarang Team and air display teams from Sweden, UK, Czech Republic and open sky jump by USA Special Forces are among the top draws at the event.

Seven of the 11 foreign military aircraft on display are American – two F-15C Eagles, two F-16C Fighting Falcons, one Boeing KC-135 tanker, one C-17 Globemaster III and a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

Three Rafale fighters of French giant Dassault – shortlisted for acquisition by the IAF – will fly aerobatics displays.

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