Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday conveyed to the top honchos of Indian and global aerospace majors that India does not want to remain an "assembly workshop" for military platforms and asserted that it now aims to produce cutting-edge defence hardware.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday conveyed to the top honchos of Indian and global aerospace majors that India does not want to remain an "assembly workshop" for military platforms and asserted that it now aims to produce cutting-edge defence hardware. Singh made the remarks while addressing a "CEOs' Roundtable" at the 14th edition of Aero India at the Yelahanka Air Force station complex on the outskirts of Bengaluru.

In his address, the defence minister called upon the industry leaders to support India's aspirations to become a leading manufacturer of key military platforms and equipment using critical technologies, in sync with the country's policy of attaining self-reliance in defence production.

Around 70 top executives of various companies attended the roundtable.

Assuring the industry leaders of all necessary support for doing business in India, Singh said the government-industry partnership is based on equality and mutual trust.

He stressed that indigenisation is the mantra for today's India, unlike in the past when import was the default option. He also extended the government's full support towards removing "obstacles" and facilitating businesses.

The five-day Aero India, considered Asia's biggest aerospace event, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day.

In his address, Modi said India has rejuvenated its defence production in the last eight-nine years and it will now move fast to join the world's largest defence-manufacturing countries, riding on favourable economic policies.

At the roundtable, Singh said India does not want to remain just an "assembly workshop" and is looking to engage with friendly countries in defence and security, based on sharing expertise and capabilities, in accordance with the prime minister's "Make in India, Make for the World" vision.

He told the industry leaders that the government is open to new ideas and committed to fully harnessing the energy, entrepreneurial spirit and capability of the private sector partners in the area of defence.

Singh voiced the government's resolve of nurturing a vibrant and world-class defence manufacturing industry, terming it the key driver of the Indian economy.

He enumerated a number of far-reaching reforms undertaken by the Ministry of Defence to create a business-friendly climate in the country.

These include setting up defence corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, simplification of industrial-licensing processes, a hike in the cap on foreign direct investment in defence, opening government trial-and-testing facilities for the private sector and an increase in the capital outlay for defence in the Union Budget 2023-24.

Singh also referred to the launch of the "Technology Development Fund" and "Innovations for Defence Excellence" to promote research and development.

He said these reforms will enable Indian defence products to compete with the established global defence and aerospace companies.

Singh appreciated the growing enthusiasm and greater participation of private players in defence production and expressed confidence that the roundtable will sow the seeds of successful new ventures and partnerships, boost investment, expand indigenous manufacturing and bolster the aerospace and defence ecosystem in India.

The "CEOs' Roundtable" was organised on the theme "Sky is not the limit: opportunities beyond boundaries".

The participating companies included Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Israel Aerospace Industries, General Atomics, Liebherr Group, Raytheon Technologies, Safran, General Authority of Military Industries, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Dynamics Limited, BEML Limited, Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge, Dynamatic Technologies and BrahMos Aerospace.

In-depth discussions took place between industry partners and the government during the meeting, with an eye to bolster the "Make in India" campaign, the defence ministry said.

It said the aim was to increase "ease of doing business" in India and provide a favourable platform to OEMs (original equipment makers) to manufacture various products within India.

Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande and Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane also attended the roundtable.

Officials said around 250 business-to-business agreements are expected to be firmed up at Aero India, which is estimated to unlock investments to the tune of around Rs 75,000 crore.

They said Aero India would promote the export of indigenous air platforms, such as the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, HTT-40, the Dornier light utility helicopter (LUH), light combat helicopter (LCH) and advanced light helicopter (ALH).

A plethora of aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) displayed their aerial prowess in an air show at the event.

The theme of Aero India is "the runway to a billion opportunities" and the event is aimed at projecting India's growth and capabilities in the defence and aerospace sector.

The focus of the event is to showcase indigenous equipment and technologies and forging partnerships with foreign companies, in line with the government's "Make in India, Make for the World" vision, the officials said.