India’s defense industry must achieve ‘self-reliance’, PM Narendra Modi said
India is seeking to build an entirely new “defense ecosystem,” to drastically cut its dependence on foreign weapon supplies and eventually turn into a major exporter of modern arms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a military innovation forum on Monday.
“We developed the habit of being dependent on foreign countries for even the simplest products. Like drug addicts, we were addicted to the products imported from abroad,” Modi said as cited by ANI news agency.
Addressing a seminar organized by the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organization (NIIO) and the Society of Indian Defense Manufacturers (SIDM), Modi said his government embarked on a “mission” to “change this mindset” back in 2014, and has since not only increased India’s defense budget, but made sure that a significant part of it is diverted towards “the development of the defense manufacturing ecosystem in the country itself.”
“Today, a large part of the budget earmarked for the purchase of defense equipment is being spent on procurement from Indian companies,” he said. “In the last four-five years, our defense imports have come down by about 21 per cent. Today we are moving fast from the biggest defense importer to a big exporter.”
While praising the Indian Navy for continuously increasing its self-reliance, Modi said that the “goal should be to take India’s defense to unprecedented heights by the time we celebrate 100 years of Independence.”
“As India is establishing itself on the global stage, there are constant attacks through misinformation, disinformation and false publicity,” he added, noting that “national defense is no longer limited to borders, but is much broader.”
Despite New Delhi’s policy of decreasing its dependence on foreign supplies by developing the domestic defense sector and diversifying arms imports, Moscow remains its key partner, meeting almost half of the needs in the last five years. Russia has long been a major provider of arms to India, especially the more complex weapons systems like fighter jets and attack submarines. Since at least the 2000s, it has been the top seller of weapons to New Delhi, with the exception of last year, when France took the lead.
The US, Israel, and the UK are also among the major suppliers. Earlier this year, the US government allegedly sought to woo India into slowing down its defense cooperation with Russia by offering New Delhi a military assistance package that could be worth as much as $500 million, according to Bloomberg. Washington also refused to impose sanctions against India for purchasing advanced Russian S-400 air defense systems. This contrasted with its treatment of China and even NATO ally Turkey, which were both hit with sanctions for buying the same weapons.