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India believes indigenous defence capabilities foundation to enduring peace: Defence Minister

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Against the backdrop of tense border standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said India is a peace-loving country and believes that indigenous defence capabilities are the foundations to "enduring peace".

In a virtual address to a group of foreign envoys on the upcoming Aero India exhibition, he also highlighted various reform measures initiated by the government to make India a hub of production of key military platforms and weapons systems.

"We are a peace-loving country. We remain committed to peace and stability across the world. We also remain committed to the belief that self-reliance and indigenous defence capabilities are the foundations to enduring peace," he said without elaborating.

Officials said ambassadors, heads of missions and defence attaches of over 75 countries attended the online conclave.

Showcasing India as an attractive destination for investment in the defence manufacturing sector, Singh said: "We need to remove impediments coming in the way of our natural alliance in a purposeful and progressive manner and join hands to make this world a more secure, peaceful and prosperous place."

He also talked about India's inherent strength in defence manufacturing and said the country is determined to become one of the top five countries globally in defence and aerospace sector.

"We are one of the few countries in the world which produces a fourth generation fighter aircraft, nuclear submarine, main battle tank and inter-continental ballistic missiles," the Defence Minister said.

Urging the envoys to encourage defence manufacturers and policy makers from their respective countries to participate in the Aero India, he said the event will be a key forum for aerospace industry to explore business opportunities.

The next edition of Aero India, considered Asia's largest aerospace exhibition, is scheduled to be held in its traditional venue of Bengaluru from February 3-7 next year and its theme will be "runway to a billion opportunities".

Officials said more than 90 per cent of space in the exhibition has been booked reflecting the "tremendous interest" shown by exhibitors to participate in the aero show.

In his remarks, Singh said that 'Aero India-21' will showcase India's intent to achieve a turnover of US$ 25 billion with exports of US$ 5 billion in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025.

"Now, we want to make India one of the top five countries of the world in defence and aerospace industries, from design to production, with active participation of public and private sector fulfilling the objective of self-reliance as well as demand of other friendly countries," he said.

Singh said the event will be organised strictly adhering to all the requisite COVID-19 protocols and that emphasis will be laid on contactless experience to all exhibitors and visitors.

"India has one of the world's largest technically qualified manpower and we do claim to be a force to reckon with in the field of information technology. With this infrastructure and human resource, India can prove to be an excellent base for the defence and aerospace industry," he said.

The government has unveiled a number of policy initiatives in the last few months with an aim to boost domestic defence production.

On August 9, the Defence Minister announced that India will stop import of 101 weapons and military platforms like transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems by 2024.

In a related development, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) identified 108 military systems and subsystems like navigation radars, tank transporters and missile canisters for the domestic industry to design, develop and manufacture.

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