India ready to sell weapon systems to Indian Ocean Region countries, says Rajnath Singh at Defence Ministers' conclave in Bengaluru

Published : February 05, 2021 14:30 IST

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh delivers the keynote address at the Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers' Conclave on the sidelines of Aero India 2021, in Bengaluru, on February 4. Photo: PTI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday reiterated what has now become part of India’s policy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), while simultaneously making a vigorous and vociferous pitch for Indian aerospace and defence entities, when he emphatically stated that India was ready to supply indigenously developed/manufactured weapon systems to IOR countries.

Stating that the aerospace and defence sectors in India had come a long way with both private and public sector companies developing state-of-the-art technologies, Rajnath Singh cited as examples recent orders placed by the Indian Air Force for the indigenously developed and manufactured light combat aircraft Tejas Mk-1A and light combat helicopters as a testament to India’s growing defence manufacturing capabilities. Also alluding to India emerging as a global R&D hub and being home to one of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems, the Defence Minister said IOR countries could leverage these sectors for mutual benefit.

Rajnath Singh said: “India’s ambition is not only to manufacture technology for internal consumption but also to export it to the IOR countries. With capabilities ranging from aircraft, helicopters, missiles and warships, India is looking to supply latest technologies to the region. With increased focus on R&D as well by Indian companies, countries in the IOR can leverage another sector for cooperation. India has adopted a cooperative approach through capacity-building assistance with partner countries. This was reflected in the supply of Indian-made ships, maritime aircraft and setting-up of coastal surveillance radar systems. Indian aerospace and defence industries offer an attractive opportunity for foreign companies to collaborate with.”

Rajnath Singh was delivering the keynote address at the first ever ‘Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave’ held on the sidelines of the 13th edition of Aero India in Bengaluru. He emphasised that India, as the largest nation in the IOR — with a vast coastline of 7,500km – had an active role to play for the peaceful and prosperous coexistence of all countries. He highlighted India’s keenness to pursue ‘SAGAR’ — ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’, and said this strategy was in consonance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Neighbourhood First and Act East policy’. Rajnath Singh emphasised that the IOR conclaves should focus on security, commerce, connectivity, fight against terrorism and intercultural exchanges, all in line with ‘SAGAR’.

“Due to its geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean Region, maritime character, historical and cultural ties with littoral states, India considers it important to keep the maritime neighbourhood safe and secure, through unity and togetherness,” he said. He underlined the importance of the Indian Ocean as a shared asset and of securing sea trade lines in the IOR owing to the presence of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments. He pointed to the challenges that the IOR faced, such as piracy; smuggling of drugs, people and arms; humanitarian and disaster relief; and search & rescue, all of which could be met through maritime cooperation. “The deployment of ships by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast guard for maritime security and anti-piracy operations had been successful in minimising threats to commercial shipping,” he said.

The Defence Minister added that maritime activity was a key focus for India in the region. In this context India had signed various technical agreements for sharing information with many countries, including setting up a comprehensive maritime awareness picture.

The IOR Defence Ministers’ conclave was attended by 18 countries, with six countries either participating virtually or sending their recorded messages. The Defence Ministers of five countries (Maldives, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Iran and Madagascar), six Ambassadors/High Commissioners representing their countries (Australia, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kuwait and Myanmar), the Defence Secretary of Sudan and service chiefs of 10 countries attended the event.

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