Prime minister Narendra Modi has struck the nail on the head when he said that only a well-equipped and well-armed nation can avert war. In other words, preparedness for war is the key to prevent war. He said this while launching the largest indigenously built warship, INS Kolkata. It goes without saying that only a strong nation commands respect. That strength has to come from indigenous production of arms and ammunition. It should be said to the credit of India’s defence planners that it has a defence industry which is able to meet many of its needs. For instance, it has the capability to plan and manufacture even an aircraft carrier.
It is also a fact that India is one of the world’s largest buyer of arms, ammunition, aircraft and aircraft carriers. Needless to say, this does not redound to the credit of the nation which has ambitions of emerging as the world’s second or third largest economy in the next few decades. Until a few years ago, India was heavily dependent on Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union, for its defence needs. Though India still sources a large quantity of arms from Russia, it has diversified its sources. Today the US has emerged as India’s largest defence partner. It also sources arms from countries like France and Israel. While over-dependence on any one country is bad, dependence on imports to meet the needs of the country is also not advisable.
It is in this context that Modi’s idea of changing the relationship between India and countries like the US should be welcomed. He recently told US defence secretary Chuck Hagel that he did not want such relationship to be merely between that of a buyer and a seller. It should be possible for the two countries to join hands in manufacturing the goods in India using as much local components as possible. This will solve the problems of transfer of technology. It will also strengthen the indigenous defence industry. It was with this aim in view that foreign direct investment was allowed in the defence industry. Clear thinking, Mr Prime Minister.