CHENNAI: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said the DefExpo-2018, slated to begin at Thiruvidanthai near here on Wednesday, would look at putting domestic manufacturers on the global map, instead of letting foreign investors steal the show.

Speaking to students of IIT-Madras, she emphasised that the ‘Make in India’ initiative is inclusive of the defence sector and that the government wants to make the country self-reliant in defence procurement.

Speaking on the future of defence manufacturing in the country, Sitharaman claimed the government had relaxed the defence procurement policy in the country in 2016 to encourage private players to get into manufacturing.

When one of the students asked what was being done to protect domestic manufacturers from their larger overseas counterparts, Sitharaman said the country’s manufacturers need “facilitation and not protection”.

“The services sector boomed after liberalisation of the economy and accounts for 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The other two sectors, agricultural and manufacturing sectors, have failed to record such growth,” she said, emphasising the need for India to strengthen its manufacturing sector.

“Can we not produce our own aircraft,” she argued, saying that domestic defence manufacturing would promote self-reliance in addition to providing numerous jobs.

She claimed the Central government had simplified the procurement policy to encourage local investment in defence manufacturing.

She welcomed student input and innovative suggestions for organisations such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). However, one of the students’ question - ‘Why is the DRDO not recruiting from campuses?’ — left the minister without an answer. She conceded that the DRDO was not recruiting from campuses, but clarified that it would be looked into.