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Recession will not affect defence modernisation: Antony

Special Correspondent

Feels “guilty” that indigenous development and production of defence items was “very, very slow”

— Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

Thrust on MODERNISATION: Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major, and Pradeep Kumar, Secretary, Department of Defence Production, at the Aero India 2009 Seminar on Aerospace Perspectives and Trends in Technologies, in Bangalore on Monday.

BANGALORE: India will not allow the economic recession to affect the modernisation programme of the armed forces, Defence Minister A. K. Antony said here on Monday.

Mr. Antony was presiding over the inaugural of a three-day international seminar on “Aerospace – Perspectives and Trends in Technologies,” organised as part of Aero India 2009 here.

The Minister admitted that the country was hit by economic slowdown, but asserted that the government would provide “whatever” the armed forces required for modernisation and “safeguarding national interests.”

Mr. Antony deviated from his prepared speech to respond to Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major’s emphasis on modernisation of the Air Force.

He regretted the country’s high dependence on imports for its defence requirements. With India meeting only 30 per cent of its defence requirements from within the country and imports the remaining 70 per cent, he bemoaned that the country was still “far, far away” from realising the former Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream of becoming self-reliant in defence sector.

Mr. Antony said he felt “guilty” that indigenous development and production of defence items was “very, very slow.”

He emphasised the need to enhance the expenditure on Research and Development by both the government and private players. The government was spending a mere 6 per cent of its budget on R&D, but now realised the need to increase the same.

The Minister also lamented the long time taken by Defence Research Development Organization and other private sector companies to “deliver.” “Far too much time is taken for delivery. PSUs and private sector should speed up the delivery of products.”

Fight against terror

Mr. Antony called for a calibrated international response to the “unconventional” means of warfare resorted to by terrorists.

Referring to new methods adopted by terrorists to wreak havoc on the civil society as seen in the 9/11 attacks and the November Mumbai terror attacks, he said there was need for calibrated international response to prevent recurrence of such attacks in future.

The dynamics of security were changing continuously across the world and the methods used by terrorists required collective and well-coordinated response.

“Technology has to be backed up by a proactive response from the Government and the civil society in unison.”

However, India’s security objectives were rooted in core values such as democracy, secularism and peaceful co-existence.

Earlier, Air Chief Marshal Major emphasised the need for the country to embark on a focussed modernisation programme for the IAF to possess the capability to “provide a swift and potent response anywhere anytime.” He pointed out that aerospace power would play a crucial role in future conflicts. He emphasised the need for India to display a credible aerospace power, particularly in the context of a “turbulent neighbourhood.”

M. Natarajan, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, said India was poised to emerge as a key outsourcing hub for global aerospace industry.

Secretary to the Department of Defence Production Pradeep Kumar and President of Aeronautical Society of India Ashok Baweja were also present on the occasion.

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