Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated India's largest ever Defence Expo 2020 in Lucknow and set the target of defence export worth $5 billion (Rs 35,000 crore) in the next five years.
Stressing on the need for India to attain self reliance in military requirements to face the present and future security challenges, Modi claimed unless the country controlled its massive defence import bill, the dream of becoming a $5 trillion economy could not be realised.
Addressing the gathering after inaugurating the mega show, he noted that post Independence India had failed to capitalise on its historical capabilities of indigenously producing its defence requirements and instead became heavily reliant on imports.
The PM, however, claimed over the past five years, there was a new zeal to ramp of domestic defence manufacturing capability and gradually become a net defence exporter rather than remain a net importer.
“From defence exports valued at Rs 2,000 crore a few years back, we have already achieved defence exports worth Rs 17,000 crore so far,” he said adding the target was to hit exports of $5 billion in the next five years.
Underlining the aim of ‘Make in India’ for India and the world, he said DefExpo 2020 was now among the biggest defence shows globally, and it would contribute immensely towards showcasing India as an ideal investment destination for defence and military hardware.
“India is not only a big market, but offers huge business opportunities,” Modi asked foreign investors and assured their investments would provide good returns and at the same time help India become self reliant in its defence needs.
However, the PM observed India’s pursuit of self reliance was to secure its national interests, especially in the backdrop of security challenging it faced in the region, and not targetted against any nation.
“India has always been a trusted partner for world peace and had contributed during the two world wars although it had no direct stake in these conflicts,” Modi said informing that nearly 6,000 Indian security personnel were currently deployed in the UN peace keeping missions in the African nations.
He said Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was helping defence sector startups to scale up and develop new products based on modern technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) etc. He said the target was to mentor 200 new startups in the sector.
Meanwhile, Modi espoused the development of defence manufacturing capacity in the domestic private sector and talked about the enabling policies, including liberal licensing regime, implemented by the central government and defence establishments to promote collaboration.
Modi said DRDO was facilitating free transfer of defence technologies and had created five new testing labs for startups to promote innovation.
Referring to the Defence Manufacturing Corridors in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, the PM said these hubs would not only help India become self reliant in defence manufacturing but also help the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).
He said Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was exploring outer space for the welfare of people and not for warfare, while DRDO was developing capabilities to protect these outer space assets from potential threats.
The 11th edition of biennial DefExpo 2020 during February 5-9 will feature 1,000 exhibitors, including 165 foreign companies from the US, France, Germany, Russia, Israel, Australia etc, are participating in the event, making it the largest ever defence show surpassing the 10th edition of DefExpo 2018 in Chennai, when about 700 exhibitors had participated.