Defence Minister A.K. Antony set the theme of 'Self-reliance' at the International Seminar on Army Air Defence in 21st Century

By Ruchika Chawla

The first ever International Seminar on Air Defence in 21st Century became the launch pad for India's Defence Sector to get an official boost from Defence Minister A.K. Antony to become more self-reliant; with a promise of aid and co-operation from the Indian Government.

"At the moment we are importing 70 per cent from foreign suppliers. Our ultimate goal is self-reliance," shared Defence Minister Antony in his address as Chief Guest at the opening of the ceremony. With an auditorium full of members of the Defence family, international companies, and foreign diplomats; Defence Minister Antony's spoken words provided the passion and determination for experts to continue the day's panel discussions and educate the audience on how India's Air Defence can match up to other leading countries in time of need.

Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Corps of Army Air Defence, and the Integrated HQ of Army (MoD); the event brought together two panels of experts from the Indian Army and the industry which will help it progress further. Welcomed by Baba Kalyani, Chairman, CII National Committee on Defence & Aerospace & CMD, Bharat Forge Limited, an outline of the Government's current reforms and streamlining defence procurement procedures were highlighted. As a start of what was to follow throughout the seminar, he called for a level playing field for Indian private players. Mr. Kalyani also urged the Government to work out some kind of arrangement to allow trial product import for the benefit of the indigenous industry.

Highlighting some of the other Guest speakers included, Gen Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Army Staff, who stated that technological breakthroughs have added new dimensions to ariel defence domain; therefore continuous upgrading and revamping of technology is imperative. Following Gen Kapoor, Lt. Gen Ram Pratap, Director General, Corps of Army Air Defence, Integrated Headquarters of MoD (Army) enthused that the years ahead will see upgradation of existing policies, coming of age of defence R&D, etc. The Lt. Gen also emphasised India's current weak inventory of defence weapons and the underlying need for a strong ground based defence system. He concluded that with strengthening of the relationship with the CII through needed inputs and feedback, it will further mature the Army Air Defence.

Mr. Gurpal Singh, Deputy Direct General, CII, concluded the seminar after announcements of new Request for Proposals (RFPs) were made by both Gen Ram Pratap and Gen Kapoor to replace old arms and possibly be an exercise to enhance a much needed interactive and productive relationship between the private and public sectors. As said by Mr. Singh, "A new partnership of public and private sector is emerging, which became very evident today."

A successful seminar concluded on the heels of the Def Expo which will take place in February in the Capital and will see a similar theme on strengthening the ties between the private and public defence sectors.

While interacting with some of the major OEM's present at the seminar, none showed hesitation in aiding India become more independent in gaining better defence capability as pointed out by Defence Minister Antony's goal of 'self-reliance'.