India’s national security challenges becoming complex: Rajnath

New Delhi, Aug 19 (PTI) India’s national security challenges are becoming “complex” in view of rapidly changing geopolitical scenario globally and there is a need to create a capable and self-reliant defense industry besides a strong and modern military, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.

Singh’s comments came amid growing concerns in India and elsewhere over the Taliban sweeping across Afghanistan this month, seizing control of almost all key Afghan towns and cities including Kabul following the withdrawal of the US forces.

“Today, the security scenario in the whole world is changing very fast. Because of this, the challenges to our national security are increasing and becoming complex. There are constant changes in the global geopolitical situation,” Singh said, without making specific references.

He was speaking after launching the ‘Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0 (DISC 5.0), an initiative under the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) that acts as an umbrella organisation to promote technology development for the defence sector.

Singh said considering the fast-changing security challenges, India must focus on having a strong, capable, and ‘self-reliant’ defence industry to cater to the needs of the armed forces.

“It is necessary that we not only create strong, modern and well-equipped forces, but also develop our defence industry, which is equally strong, capable, and most importantly, completely ‘self-reliant’,” the defence minister said.

“There is neither a shortage of talent in our country, nor is there a lack of demand for talents. But in the absence of a common platform, the two could not match. ‘iDEX’ platform has been successful to a large extent in bridging this gap,” he said.

The DISC 5.0 focuses in areas such as artificial intelligence, non-lethal devices, 5G network, under-water domain awareness, Swarm drones and data capturing among others.

The defence minister called upon the private sector to contribute in strengthening the defence manufacturing sector.

“While assuring all possible cooperation from the government, I call upon the private sector to come forward and contribute in building a strong and self-reliant defence sector,” he said.

Sharing his insights on the broad contours of iDEX, the defence minister said that the initiative has succeeded in bridging the gap between talent and demand in the country.

“iDEX provides a strong foundation of innovation, research and development to the industry. Initiatives like iDEX form a link between our youth, academia, research and development, start-ups and the armed forces,” he added.

In the last couple of years, the government has unveiled a series of reform measures and initiatives to make India a hub of defence manufacturing.

Last August, Singh announced that India will stop the import of 101 weapons and military platforms like transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems by 2024.

A second negative list, putting import restrictions on 108 military weapons and systems such as next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning systems, tank engines and radars, was issued recently.

In May last year, the government announced increasing the FDI limit from 49 per cent to 74 per cent under the automatic route in the defence sector.

The government has been focusing on reducing dependence on imported military platforms and has decided to support domestic defence manufacturing.

The defence ministry has set a goal of a turnover of USD 25 billion (Rs 1.75 lakh crore) in defence manufacturing by 2025 that included an export target of USD 5 billion (Rs 35,000 crore) worth of military hardware.