New Delhi: Asserting that the emergence of India is not a threat to anyone, Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar said the country does not get threatened by anyone, and that the national interest requires maintenance of stability in the its immediate neighbourhood.
“Our maritime and national interests require maintenance of stability in our immediate neighbourhood and also the preservation of rule-based order in not just the Indian Ocean Region but the Indo-Pacific (region),” Kumar said referring to the ongoing situation along the Sino-Indian border along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh and the prevailing security scenario in the South China Sea.
“Emergence of India is not a threat to anyone, nor do we get threatened by anyone,” he said at a webinar organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) on the occasion of the 11th Y.B. Chavan Memorial Lecture on “India’s Defence Policy: Challenge and Contours,” on December 3.
India and China have already held multiple rounds of military talks to decide on concrete steps to resolve the situation in eastern Ladakh, where around 50,000 soldiers each of the Indian Army and the Chinese Army are currently deployed.
Kumar said India’s defence relationships are based on the principle of free, open and rule-based order, ensuring economic growth to meet the aspirations of 1.3 billion people of India and two billion people of the region.
“The recent years have seen an increase of our engagement with like minded nations and signing of some key agreements that will facilitate greater synergy and interoperability. The recently concluded Malabar exercise is one such example of our international collaboration and engagement,” he noted.
He said the present manpower costs of the Indian armed forces are increasing very fast and need to be reigned in.
“We are looking at various ways at what should be the model, how much of the optimisation needs to be done, where can the costs be cut, where can the technology be used,” he stated.
He said while the budget allocations of other ministries have been cut amid the financial constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget allocation of the defence ministry has not been affected.
“This does not mean that everything we (the defence ministry) ask for is received, but this reflects that the government is very cognisant of the defence requirements being given the highest priority,” he said.
The government has made it clear that resources would not be a constraint as far as defence preparedness is concerned, Kumar stated.
“Having said that, this does not mean that we have resources to fritter away,” he noted.
Delving into the various contours of India’s Defence Policy, he said that it should be analysed in the context of the current international security system and the domestic environment. Showcasing its importance, he said the defence requirements of the country have been suitably enhanced by the government, despite the adverse financial impact of the ongoing pandemic.
Highlighting the importance of self-reliance in Defence for attaining strategic autonomy, the Defence Secretary said that India, for long, has been one of the biggest defence importers in the world. The Government is now working towards boosting domestic manufacturing and developing new technologies with the private sector as key players. The objective is to draw attention towards augmenting domestic production, he noted.
Sharing his thoughts on the interplay between the strategic and structural variables in determining the defence strategy of a country, Kumar said that at the strategic level, India must take into account its available structural resources and constraints to formulate a comprehensive defence policy. Given the current scenario, it was imperative to integrate and enhance the jointness of India’s Defence Forces. The appointment of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff is a step in that direction, he added.
Also present on the occasion was the representative of Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, Mumbai, Ajit Nimbalkar, who spoke of Y.B. Chavan’s contributions not only in Maharashtra, but also on the national front. Hailing Chavan as a distinguished leader with a humble background Nimbalkar spoke of his journey from a small village in Maharashtra to becoming the Indian Minister of Defence during the 1965 War.
The Y.B. Chavan Memorial Lecture is an annual lecture organised by MP-IDSA in collaboration with the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan since 2010.