Minister says government wants technically superior defence equipment manufactured indigenously

New Delhi: India is looking at a growing need for investing in technically superior defence equipment manufactured indigenously, and that’s where the UAE can play a key role with its investments, the Indian defence minister said on Thursday.

“One key dimension of the UAE and India’s defence cooperation is in defence production,” Nirmala Sitharaman said. “India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership is putting a lot of emphasis on ‘Make in India’. This along with the fact that India is one of the largest military equipment users means that we have a growing need for purchasing a lot of technically superior equipment. By using the best indigenous technology, we are going to build our stealth capability,” she said.

Procuring such equipment from within India will offer the twin advantages of technical robustness and cost competitiveness, said Sitharaman, the first woman minister to hold independent charge of the Indian defence ministry. “This is where the UAE can make strategic investments in the defence sector,” she said.

Her comments came as Modi was set to arrive in the UAE on a two-day visit tomorrow. Last year, Modi and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, signed a raft of bilateral agreements, among which was one on defence cooperation and defence manufacturing.

The Indian government, in its annual budget presented on February 1, estimated an outlay of $46 billion for defence in 2018-19, including for the armed forces, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and defence production units. However, successive Indian governments have come under severe criticism for failing to adequately plan and prepare for a complete modernisation of the antiquated military inventory.

“The focus for all the three forces — whether it’s the army, navy or air force — is to get going with the acquisition of equipment that have been pending for more than 10 years,” Sitharaman said.

“We had a considerable loss of time with previous governments. But now we are making sure that such acquisition is on track. With growing demands for newer technology and upgrades, the DRDO has rapidly moved forward to integrate such demand with supply,” she said.

The UAE and India recently concluded their first joint naval exercise, and the minister said history had enough proof of the strategic significance of such action. “The Arabian Sea has several choke points which drain into the Indian Ocean. About 40 per cent of the global merchandise moves through this route, so essentially this is the route through which most of the cargo go towards the East. It is critical to have a good cooperative presence in this area, and therefore the positive connection we can have with the UAE in this will be of great significance to India,” she said.