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PM hard sells India as attractive investment destination at DefExpo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration of 11th edition of DefExpo2020, at Lucknow, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Photo: PIB/PTI

LUCKNOW (PTI): Hardselling India as an attractive investment destination, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set a target of USD 5 billion worth of military exports in the next five years and invited global defence majors to set up manufacturing hubs in the country.

Inaugurating the 11th edition of DefExpo, the prime minister said India is significantly boosting its military might and even increasing presence in outer space responsibly.

At the same time, he said that strengthening of military prowess was not aimed at any country and asserted that India has always been a reliable partner of peace and stability in the region and beyond.

The five-day DefExpo -- India's biennial exhibition of military platforms and weapons -- is being attended by 38 defence ministers and top executives of 172 foreign defence majors and 856 Indian companies.

Talking about the neighbourhood, Modi said India not only focuses on its own security but also considers it a responsibility to help countries in the region deal with key challenges and ensure regional peace and development.

The prime minister said lack of proper policy initiatives in the last several decades has made India the biggest importer of defence platforms. His government, he added, has taken a series of policy initiatives, ridding the acquisition system of silos to cut the country's dependence on foreign acquisitions and promote domestic production.

"Come and invest in India. There is an infinite opportunity in defence manufacturing in India. There is demand, democracy and decisiveness in India. You will also find talent, infrastructure, favourable policy initiative and security of investment," Modi told the gathering which included hundreds of CEOs of leading global defence majors.

The prime minister's call to foreign defence firms to invest in India comes in the backdrop of the Indian economy witnessing a major slowdown and declining foreign direct investment. Military officials said boosting defence production can significantly help boost the fledgling economy.

Modi said a roadmap has been finalised for the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for defence preparedness and set a goal of developing 25 products based on AI in the next five years.

"Our mantra is Make in India, for India, for world. In 2014, the export of defence equipment from India was about Rs 2,000 crore. In the last two years, it has gone up to Rs 17,000 crore. In the next five years, our target is export of USD 5 billion, which is about Rs 35,000 crore," the prime minister said in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the country's top defence brass.

Modi said India is not only a major market globally but is, in a way, a vast opportunity for the entire world. Uttar Pradesh, he added, is going to be one of the biggest defence manufacturing hubs in India.

Modi also suggested setting up a common platform by major industry bodies of the country to boost development and production of military technology.

He cited misuse of technology, terrorism and cyber threat as challenges facing the world and said defence forces are eyeing new technology considering new threats. India is not behind others, he added.

According to the prime minister, the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and the Department of Military Affairs will boost overall defence production.

"We are going to enhance our presence in outer space in coming years," he said, adding that the DRDO is putting up effective protection for India's assets in outer space created by India's space agency ISRO.

"Our defence preparedness is not aimed at any country as India is a reliable contributor to world peace. It's our responsibility to ensure security of not only India but countries in the neighbourhood as well," he said.

The prime minister said India's presence in outer space is already strong and will get stronger in the coming years.

Modi also made an elaborate presentation of various key initiatives by his government to bolster India's military preparedness.

Earlier, Defence Minister Rajanath Singh said that the creation of two defence corridors in India was a result of prime minister's vision of leading India to become a technological powerhouse.

He said that the nation would benefit from the defence industrial ecosystem being setup and developed using cluster development.

In order to make India a defence manufacturing hub, Singh said that the key was cooperation among various countries and the global defence manufacturing companies.

He said that companies from around the world were bringing together their individual competencies in order to collaborate and share know-how with Indian companies to create a win-win situation.

A number of policy initiatives have been taken to unleash the potential in defence production in the country, he said.

The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cap was liberalised to 49 per cent through the direct route, and above that upto 100 per cent through the government route, he said.

Addressing the gathering, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the defence corridor setup here would create a world-class defence ecosystem that shall cater to the technological needs of the defence companies.


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