India does not believe in a "hierarchical" world order where few countries are considered superior to others and its ties with other nations are based on sovereign equality and mutual respect, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday amid growing global concerns over China's muscle flexing.
In an address at an ambassadors' roundtable on the upcoming Aero India exhibition, Singh said India's international relations are guided by the very essence of human equality and dignity and it does not believe in making or becoming a client or satellite state. The defence minister said India's national efforts towards 'Make in India' are neither "isolationist" nor are they meant for the country alone as he made an open offer of partnerships with New Delhi for production of various military equipment.
The 14th edition of 'Aero India', billed as Asia's largest aerospace exhibition, will be held in Bengaluru from February 13 to 17. "We do not believe in making or becoming a client or satellite state, and so, when we partner any nation, it is on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect," he said while inviting the ambassadors to the mega event. There have been mounting global concerns over China's military muscle flexing in the South China Sea, East China Sea and the Indo-Pacific.
Singh said "partnership and joint efforts" are the two key words that differentiate India's defence industry cooperation with other nations. "India does not believe in a hierarchical conception of world order, where few countries are considered superior to others." Underlining that the 'make-in-India' programme encompasses make-for-the-world, the defence minister asserted that the self-reliance initiative is the beginning of a "new paradigm of partnership" with India's partner countries. "Within the domain of defence research and development and manufacturing, it translates into an open offer to you all, for joint efforts and partnerships in defence R and D and production," he said. "When we are procuring defence equipment from our valued partner nations, very often, they are sharing the technical know-how, setting up manufacturing plants in India, and working with our local firms for various sub-systems," Singh said.
He noted that it is India's endeavour to "transcend the relation of buyer and seller to that of a co-development and co-production model, irrespective of whether we are a buyer or a seller". "I would like to emphasise that our national efforts towards 'Make in India' are neither isolationist, nor are they just meant for India alone," he said. Showcasing the growth of India's defence manufacturing sector, Singh especially spoke about the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCH) and the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).
"Our large population and abundant skilled work-force has led to the creation of a thriving innovation ecosystem, led by start-ups in high technology areas. I believe that the Indian Aerospace and Defence manufacturing sector is well prepared to take up the future challenges and capitalise on emerging opportunities," he said. He also noted that India's defence exports have grown by eight times in the last five years and now the country is exporting to more than 75 nations. "India has been working towards enhancing its defence manufacturing capabilities, particularly in the emerging areas of drones, cyber tech, AI, radars and other equipment," Singh said.
"When we are exporting our defence equipment to our friendly nations, we offer our full support towards the capability development of the buyer through sharing of technology, training, co-production," he said. Touching upon India's G-20 presidency, the defence minister said its endeavour is to build consensus within the grouping and shape the agenda for a "more secure, prosperous, sustainable and just world". "The upcoming G20 summit in India is taking place in the larger context of a major geopolitical crisis, food and energy security concerns, comparatively slower progress on Sustainable Development Goals, mounting public debt burdens, and urgent climate change related issues," he said.
Singh said India envisages the G20 Presidency as an occasion to showcase India to the world, the "3 D's of India: Development, Democracy and Diversity." The defence minister also mentioned that Aero India-2023 would be bigger than the last edition. The Aero India-2021 had witnessed attendance of over 600 exhibitors physically and another 108 in virtual mode.