ALIGARH: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today urged Indian defence equipment manufacturers to look beyond the domestic market and supply their products overseas, assuring them that her ministry will assist with whatever "handholding" is required to expand their reach.
Sitharaman, along with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, also formally announced a defence corridor in the state encompassing the Aligarh, Agra, Kanpur, Lucknow, Jhansi, Chitrakoot circuit, apart from other defence investment projects.
The circuit has clusters of defence equipment manufacturers, both government (defence public sector undertakings and ordnance factories) and private players, including the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs).
This is the second such defence corridor after Tamil Nadu, which has been formally declared by the government, following an announcement made in this year's budget.
"There should be a change in the mindset of defence manufacturers. You just look at the orders from the Indian defence forces and forget about the world. I humbly request that the way you supply (equipment) to the defence forces, there is equal big market outside," Sitharaman said.
"Whatever hand-holding is required from the Defence Ministry will be extended", she said, stressing that the export market should be encouraged.
To encourage the domestic defence industry, laws have been changed, she noted.
"Earlier, the forces would send a proposal if there was a necessity cited by them. Now, the manufacturers can suo-motu suggest the necessity for the forces. If the item passes trials and tests then we will place an order for the next ten years," she said.
Addressing the gathering, Adityanath said the investors were initially wary of Uttar Pradesh but his government is guaranteeing security to all the investors besides easing the business processes.
"When the announcement of a defence corridor was made in the budget, I immediately approached the defence minister, to have one in our state," Adityanath said.
To encourage defence industry, nearly 4000 hectares of land has been notified near Jhansi and 200 hectares in Aligarh for this purpose, he said.
The chief minister also added that the state government has planned the Bundelkhand Expressway connecting Agra, Jhansi to Chitrakoot that will give a boost to the industry.
Addressing the stakeholders' convention jointly organised by the Defence Ministry and Federation of Innovative Manufacturers, Aligarh, Sitharaman praised "the positive response" given to the landmark project by the Uttar Pradesh government.
She said that the presence of the Vice Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Air Force and Navy at the interface with members of the manufacturing community is a pointer to the fact that the Defence Ministry is taking this project aimed at self-sufficiency in defence production "very seriously".
She said, "The ministry would not only welcome participation in existing products, but would also positively respond to any innovative ideas offered by local entrepreneurs on defence-related manufacturing items."
She also said that the first step in this project would be to provide technical training to personnel who would be absorbed in different industrial units, which are slated to be established at an industrial hub near Tappal adjoining the Yamuna Expressway linking Gautam Buddh Nagar to Agra.
The Defence minister said that she had already had two informal discussions with representatives of Aligarh-based industries and was confident that this district has a huge reservoir of technological skills.
Earlier, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that the state was determined to provide security and investment climate needed for making the project a success.
He said that as part of this initiative, the UP government has decided to construct the Bundelkhand Expressway for link Agra to Jhansi and Chitrakoot.
All three districts are also included in this corridor along with Lucknow.
The chief minister also said that 263 hectares of land had been earmarked at Tappal (in Aligarh) for this defence production park.
He also said that a single window portal was being set up for immediate redressal of all problems faced by manufacturers in setting up their units in all such parks in the state.
Six nodal points have been identified in state -- Agra, Aligarh, Lucknow, Kanpur, Chitrakoot and Jhansi -- for the corridor.
"Stakeholder interactions have already been held in Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra and Jhansi and all the interactions have seen huge response from the industries in and around the locations," the Defence Ministry said in a statement yesterday.
Another defence corridor was launched in Tamil Nadu early this year.