The country which once used to release pigeons is today releasing cheetahs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday while trying to emphasise India's growing influence in the international defence sector with its 'Make In India' initiative.
"This is the very same country that once released pigeons, today it has reached a stage where it is releasing cheetahs. The events may look small at times but the underlying message is bigger," PM Modi said at the inauguration of the Defense Expo 22 in Gujarat's Gandhinagar.
On his birthday last month, the prime minister released eight cheetahs from Namibia into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The wild cats, which were declared extinct from India in 1952, were relocated in a bid to revive the country's cheetah project.
PM Modi unveiled HTT-40 – the indigenous trainer aircraft designed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited – at the India Pavilion during the expo, and also launched Mission DefSpace before laying the foundation stone for the Deesa airfield in his home state.
"Our defence export has gone up eight times in the last eight years and they reached ₹13,000 crores in 2021-2022. At present, we are exporting defence materials and equipment to more than 75 countries of the world. We aim to take it to $5 billion dollars or about ₹40,000 crores in the next few years," he said.
This is the first-ever edition of DefExpo that is exclusive for Indian companies in order to showcase the growing prowess of the domestic defence industry, which is today one of the major drivers of the nation's resolve to achieve 'Make in India, Make for the World' vision of Prime Minister Modi.
The biennial exhibition has been organised to support, showcase and forge partnerships for the Indian aerospace and defence manufacturing sectors with Indian as well as global customers to achieve the overall objective of catering to domestic requirements, while fulfilling the needs of friendly nations.
PM Modi said that 68% of the capital procurement budget for defence has been earmarked for the domestic industry in 2022-23.
To promote self-reliance in defence manufacturing and technology, the Department of Defence Production (DDP) has notified 411 items in the 'positive indigenisation lists' (PIL) of sub-systems/assemblies/sub-assemblies/components that will not be imported by India.
"I am told that about 101 items have been added to this list of Indian products. In total, there are 411 products where India will not be dependent on exports. This will strengthen Indian defence manufacturing companies. There was a monopoly of a few countries in the defence sector, but India has made its way into it," the prime minister said while announcing the 'Fourth Positive Indigenisation List' of 101 items.
He said that smaller countries that are left behind in security systems due to a lack of resources will now reap great benefits from India's rise in defence manufacturing.
The Union defence ministry had promulgated 'First, Second and Third Positive Indigenisation Lists', comprising 310 items on 21 August 2020, 31 May 2021 and 7 April 2022, respectively.
All the items included in the lists will be procured from indigenous sources in line with the provisions laid out in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.
PM Modi, in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 76th Independence Day, appreciated the efforts taken for indigenisation through the 'positive lists'. These lists would boost indigenisation and achieve 'aatmanirbharta' in the defence sector and increase exports in the coming times, he had said.
The 12th edition of DefExpo 2022, with the theme 'Path to Pride', is the largest-ever such event with a total area of over 1,00,000 sqm (the previous edition being 76,000 sqm) and has over 1,300 exhibitors. These include the India defence industry, some joint ventures associated with Indian defence industry, MSMEs and more than 100 startups. Seventy-five countries are participating in the DefExpo 2022.
Underlining the uniqueness of this edition of Defexpo, the prime minister said, "This is the first defence expo where only Indian companies are participating and it features only Made in India equipment."
The event provides a glimpse of the capability and possibility of India in one single frame, he said, adding that more than 400 MoUs are being signed during the expo, a first as well.
PM Modi expressed happiness that when India is giving shape to its dreams, 53 friendly countries from Africa are "walking with us". The second India-Africa Defence Dialogue was held on October 18 on the sidelines of the event.
"This relationship between India and Africa is based on time-tested trust that is further deepening and touching new dimensions with the passing of time," the prime minister said, adding that the first railway lines in Africa had the participation of people from Kutch in Gujarat.
"Even for a global leader like Mahatma Gandhi, if Gujarat was his birthplace, then Africa was his first 'karmbhoomi'. This affinity for Africa is still integral to India's foreign policy. During the coronavirus period, when the whole world was worried about the vaccine, India prioritised delivering vaccines to our friendly countries in Africa", he stated.
PM Modi further said, "Today, from international security to global trade, maritime security has emerged as a global priority. The role of the merchant navy has also expanded in the era of globalisation... The world's expectations of India have increased, and I assure the world community that India will fulfil them. Therefore, this Defence Expo is also a symbol of global trust towards India."
The second Indian Ocean Region+ (IOR+) Conclave will also be held during the Expo to provide a stage for a comprehensive dialogue to promote defence cooperation amongst IOR+ nations to foster peace, growth, stability and prosperity, in line with PM Modi's vision for Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
About the upcoming Deesa airfield in Gujarat, Modi said that the forward air force base will add to the security architecture of the country. Noting Deesa's proximity with the Pakistan border, he said that "India is better prepared to respond to any misadventure on the western borders".
He said he had proposed the project when he was the chief minister of Gujarat (2001-2014) but it was stuck for 14 years at the Centre. It was only after he became the prime minister that the project moved forward, he informed.
Meanwhile, PM Modi also highlighted that space technology is shaping new definitions of India's generous space diplomacy. "Many African countries and many other small countries are benefiting from this", he said.
There are more than 60 developing countries with whom India is sharing its space science, he said, adding, "The South Asia satellite is an effective example of this. By next year, ten ASEAN countries will also get real-time access to India's satellite data. Even developed countries like Europe and America are using our satellite data."
The world is relying on India's technology today because India's armies have proved their capabilities, and the Indian Navy has inducted state-of-the-art aircraft carriers like the INS Vikrant into its fleet, he said.
"This engineering giant and colossal masterpiece has been made by Cochin Shipyard Limited with indigenous technology. The induction of the Prachand Light Combat Helicopters developed under the 'Make in India' initiative by Indian Air Force is a clear example of India's defence capability," he said.
Furthermore, he informed that India is building two defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and many big companies across the world are keen to invest in India.
"You innovate, take a pledge to be the best in the world, and give shape to the dream of a strong developed India. You will always find me there supporting you," he urged all participants at the DefExpo.