At Aero India opening, Rajnath projects India as major power, defence industry base - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 3 February 2021

At Aero India opening, Rajnath projects India as major power, defence industry base

To be able to project power and influence across the Indo-Pacific, India's defence ministry plans to spend $130 bn on military modernisation over seven years



By Ajai Shukla

Yelahanka, Bengaluru


Inaugurating the Aero India 2021 air show in Bengaluru on Wednesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh conveyed the promise of an India that was gearing itself to project power and influence across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).


“India has a vast coastline, but our interests also lie beyond our shores. It includes our people who reside and work across continents, especially in the IOR. It is our bounden duty to remain capable and willing to assist them in times of natural calamities and security challenges.”


The inauguration was followed by a carefully choreographed fly-past by Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft, including by the Suryakiran and Sarang aerobatics teams. 


The lone foreign aircraft on show was a US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber, which made a 26-hour flight from its home base in South Dakota, UK, to appear precisely on schedule during the fly-past. Emblemising the US-India defence relationship, the bomber was escorted by a lone Indian Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA).

Inviting the sprinkling of foreign defence representatives in the audience to invest in manufacturing in India, Rajnath held out the promise of spending $130 billion on military modernization over the next seven years.


“Our vision is to make India one of the biggest countries of the world in the defence sector, from design to production, with active participation of public and private sector,” he said.


The inauguration also featured the ceremonial handing over by the ministry of defence a Rs 48,000 crore contract to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to build 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters, which Rajnath referred to as “the pride of India”.


Highlighting the achievement of building a platform as complex as a fighter aircraft, Rajnath conveyed that India had moved on from manufacturing small components and sub-systems to the design and development of complex platforms.


“Domestic manufacturing of bigger and complex defence platforms has now become the focus of our policy under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (self-reliant India project),” he said.


Towards India’s “twin goals of self-reliance and exports”, the defence minister restated his target of an annual defence production turnover of Rs 175,000 crore, which including export of aerospace and defence equipment worth Rs 35,000 crore annually by 2024.


Pointing out that there was overseas interest in the Tejas fighter – specifically from the Maldives, Malaysia and Sri Lanka – Rajnath said that India has the potential to become a reliable supplier of defence equipment to many of its friendly nations. 


“India is steadily marching from ‘Make in India’ towards ‘Make for the World’,” he said.


The defence minister also characterised India as “one of the fastest growing civil aviation markets in the world,” to state: “India, therefore, holds a huge potential for investments in the aerospace sector, particularly in manufacturing of aero engines and sub-assemblies as well as in maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft.”


Inaugurating the “Make in India” pavilion, Rajnath released a booklet of Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) documents and procedures that would assist the private defence industry in benefiting from the DRDO’s technological breakthroughs.


“The policy revisions done today will facilitate the design, development, production and certification of next-generation air systems. This new airworthiness framework will empower the organisations and industries with liberal certification procedures,” said the defence minister.

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