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Need to focus on self-reliance in defence to deal with future security challenges: Defence Minister

Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh addresses the 37th Air Chief Marshal PC Lal Memorial Lecture organised by the Air Force Association, at Air Force Auditorium in New Delhi, on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo: PTI)

NEW DELHI (PTI): The nature of future wars can be assessed through a closer look at the situation in Syria, Afghanistan and the recent Ukrainian conflict, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said as he has called for focusing on self-reliance in defence and use of technology in dealing with national security challenges.

Delivering the 37th PC Lal memorial lecture in New Delhi on Thursday, the Defence Minister said that the situation in Ukraine has demonstrated that it could impact not only defence supplies, but commercial contracts are also prone to be affected when it comes to national interests.

Referring to steps being taken to ensure synergy among the three services, Singh said the ongoing process of integration of the Armed Forces is aimed at not only increasing the combined capability but also efficiency.

The Defence Minister also exhorted the Indian Air Force to become an "aerospace force" and be ready to protect the country from evolving threats, and asked the armed forces to enhance their capabilities saying "you have to up your game".

Sharing his views on the need to achieve self-reliance in defence, Singh said it is essential not only to build the domestic capacity but also to safeguard the sovereignty of the country.

"Our past experiences have taught us that India cannot depend on imports for its security. Recent conflicts, especially the situation in Ukraine, have told us that not just defence supplies (could be affected), but commercial contracts are also prone to be affected when it comes to national interests," he added.

Singh's comments came in the backdrop of apprehensions among the military brass that there could be delays in the supply of military hardware from Russia to India in view of the Ukraine conflict.

"If we take a look at some of the recent conflicts, we will find many important insights. If we take a closer look at Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and the current Ukrainian conflict, we will find many points of view from which we can assess the nature of future war," Singh said.

"Although these trends are suggestive, but we can gain a deeper understanding by correlating them with our local threats," he said.

Referring to evolving geopolitical situation, Singh said it is "our duty to keep anticipating the nature of future wars."

"Steps are being taken by our adversaries towards military use of space. Surely this is likely to have an adverse effect on our interests. Therefore, you have to up your game," he said.

"In such a situation, considering whether the Indian Air Force should move from the Air Force to the aerospace force is an important need of the hour. What can you think of technology evolution, gaining expertise, and human resource management to defend against space-guided attacks, and protect your space assets," he said.

Highlighting the importance of technology in future conflicts, Singh said, that its use has seen an unprecedented increase in recent times. He, however, stated that expensive platforms and weapon systems do not alone ensure victory and it is their deployment which gives an edge in wars.

"Be it precision-guided munition, unmanned aerial vehicles or manpack anti-tank weapons, their deployment in any future war will be as critical as it had been in the past. Technology is a force multiplier, but without innovative deployment, state-of-the-art equipment will be a mere display," he said.

"Today we cannot imagine any war in which technology does not play a role. In this sense, the recent conflicts are no different. At present the speed of technology, and its use has seen an increase," he said.

The Defence Minister asked the Armed Forces to keep an eye on the evolving geopolitical scenario to understand the nature of future threats and challenges.

"As students of military affairs and geopolitics, it is our duty to keep anticipating the nature of future wars. Steps are being taken by our adversaries toward military use of space. It certainly has the potential to adversely affect our interests," he said.

Singh voiced the Government's resolve to provide specialised skills training to the armed forces personnel, especially the IAF, in the latest technology to make them future-ready.

"The Air Force is a technology-intensive force. In such a situation, I understand the need for specialised skills training of our personnel," he said.

The Defence Minister reiterated that the Government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the safety and security of the people of the country.

He added that India has emerged as the foremost responder for out of area contingencies across the region.

Singh asserted that through the process of integration, structures can be built for bringing together the Armed Forces and greater synergy can be established between them through joint vision, training, planning and execution of operations.

He said there have been deliberations in the Armed Forces regarding the envisaged changes.

"This consultative process will continue till the implementation of the reforms. We have to keep in mind that its long term success will depend on the vision of the planners just as much it depends on those who implement it.

"I have full faith that in future more unity will be established not just ideologically, but also in action," he said.

The Defence Minister also paid glowing tributes to Air Chief Marshal PC Lal, who was the Vice Chief of the Air Staff during the 1965 war and had served as the seventh Chief of the Air Staff during the 1971 war.

Describing him as a visionary, Singh said Air Chief Marshal PC Lal's outstanding leadership proved to be a decisive factor for India's victory and for the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Singh also released a book titled 'INDO-PAK WAR 1971- Reminiscences of Air Warriors'. The book comprises 50 articles penned by the veterans who have shared their experiences in detail.

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