India's aspiration to become a regional power can't rely on borrowed strength and the nation's wars have to be won with indigenous equipment and technology, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said on Friday. Addressing an event held by the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, he said the segregated nature of the defence commercial industry ecosystem in India restricts its capacity to manufacture defence equipment.

"We cannot be import-dependent if we have to fight and win future wars. Indigenisation, therefore, is the way forward and we in the armed forces are fully committed to it," Rawat said. "Our nation's aspiration of becoming a regional power cannot rely on borrowed strength… India's wars have to be won with Indian solutions," he said.

The pervasiveness of information and the pace of technological change is transforming the very character of warfare and providing innovative ways of warfare that would be non-contact (no physical contact) in particular, the Chief of Defence Staff said. "It includes information operations, stealing of intellectual property rights, economic inducements — all backed up by propaganda in the time of fake news to justify their actions," he added.

"The air defence capabilities of our armed forces are at the cusp of modernisation with acquisition of Rafales, S-400, ballistic missile defence system, Akash weapon system and progressive replacement of the legacy air defence systems that we have in our inventory today," Rawat noted. However, keeping in mind the macro-economic parameters and socio-economic requirements of India, the best solutions have to be found through acquisitions and optimisation or up-gradation of legacy systems and through indigenous manufacturing, he said.

"We will be able to use our economics or the budgetary allocations made to the armed forces in a better way if we develop our systems indigenously," the Chief of Defence Staff mentioned. The pursuit of disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, big data analysis, drones, autonomous unmanned systems, militarisation of space, cyber warfare, quantum communications along with the manipulation of social media are all leading to new threats further complicating the security environment today, Rawat said.

Enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing are being used to produce sophisticated autonomous weapons that will accelerate the pace of combat, he mentioned. "While these technologies keep shaping the contours of the threat, they also provide with us an opportunity to acquire new military capabilities to our strategic advantage." Rawat said the military value of the ballistic missiles will increase over the next decade with the production of hypersonic gliders and alternative warheads that are capable of breaking into increasingly powerful missile defence systems.

The armed forces must be prepared for a future conflict with this changed character of warfare, he added.