Bengaluru, Feb 18 (IANS) Foreign firms must turn into strategic partners from being merely sellers of defence equipment as India wants their technology, skills, systems integration and manufacturing strength, Prime Minister Narendra said here Wednesday.
“From sellers, foreign firms must turn into strategic partners and use India as part of their global supply chain,” Modi said at the inaugural ceremony of the Aero India trade expo in this tech hub.
Noting that defence budgets the world over were shrinking, Modi said the country’s frugal manufacturing and engineering services sector could help foreign firms reduce costs.
“India can also be a base for export to third countries in view of our growing defence partnerships in Asia and beyond. A strong defence industry, will not only make us more secure, but also more prosperous,” Modi told global aerospace firms participating in the five-day air show at the Yelahanka base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the city’s outskirts.
Admitting that India had the reputation of being the world’s largest importer of defence equipment, the prime minister, however, said the country would not like to be in that position though imports were inevitable in the military arena.
“India being the largest importer of defence equipment 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 in his brief address to the gathering, which included defence ministers and air chiefs of a dozen countries from the world over.
In view of the security challenges in the region, Modi said there was a need to increase the country’s defence preparedness by modernizing the defence forces.
“We have to equip for the needs of the future, where technology will play a major role. As a nation of a billion people, we have huge requirements for managing internal security,” Modi said.
Terming the 10th edition of the biennial air show as the largest ever, reflecting the country’s new confidence level and global interest in India, Modi said the trade expo was a mega meeting of the global supply chains, with the most advanced technology and equipment.
“For me, this (Aero India) is not just a trade fair for defence equipment, but a platform to launch our defence manufacturing sector. A nation with a strong defence industry can not only be more secure, but also reap rich economic benefits,” Modi said, delivering his 20-minute address in English.
Pointing out India was spending tens of billions of dollars on acquisitions from abroad, which accounts for 60 percent of the defence equipment, Modi said even 20-25 percent reduction in imports would create an additional 120,000 skilled jobs in the country.
“If we can raise the percentage of domestic procurement to 70 percent from 40 percent, in the next five years, we will double the output in our defence industry and create thousands of jobs in the manufacturing and services sector,” Modi said.
Increasing localisation has also spin off benefits on other sectors in terms of advanced materials and technologies.
“We are focusing on developing our defence industry with a sense of mission with Make in India programme at the heart. We are also reforming our defence procurement policies and procedures, with a clear preference for equipment manufactured in India,” Modi added.