Lagging a little in military modernisation compared to adversaries: Army Chief
General Naravane said dependence on imported military hardware could create vulnerabilities during a crisis, and self-reliance in the defence sector was a “strategic necessity”.
Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Thursday said India’s adversaries were modernising their militaries at a swift pace while the country was lagging slightly on that front, calling for concerted capability building of the armed forces to address national security challenges amid a lingering border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
Speaking at an event to mark 25 years of army-industry partnership, the army chief said equipping the military with locally-produced weapons and systems was critical to meet national security challenges but indigenous development alone was not enough to plug existing operational voids because of challenges relating to niche technology and manufacturing capability.
“There may be some inescapable need for a certain percentage of imports. One cannot afford to have operational voids when the enemy is at the gate,” Naravane said. He said dependence on imported military hardware could create vulnerabilities during a crisis, and self-reliance in the defence sector was a “strategic necessity.”
“It is imperative for us to invest in building long-term indigenous capabilities for application across the entire spectrum of conflict,” he said.
The army also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) to power the indigenisation drive in the defence sector and reduce dependence on imported military hardware.
“Increasing security challenges due to India's rising stature in the international community, apart from unresolved borders and revisionist adversaries have led to Indian Army being embroiled in protracted conflicts such as insurgencies and proxy wars. Continuous and concerted capability building of the army through modernisation to address these security challenges is a national imperative,” the army chief said.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the fragility of global supply chains and self-reliance was the only way to insulate the military from such disruptions.
Enabling policy measures, swift decision making and speeding up timelines for delivery have induced a new sense of direction and there is a strong Make in India traction in many major areas such as combat vehicles, guns, rockets, ammunition, missiles, radars and electronic warfare systems, he said.
He said defence exports had witnessed a seven-fold increase in three years and concerted actions by manufacturers and facilitation by industry associations will help the country achieve the $5 billion export target by 2025.