Defence Imports May Come Down: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday exuded confidence that defence imports would be brought down below 40 percent by the end of the NDA government’s term.

“When our government came, defence imports were approximately 70 percent. Now they have come down to below 60 per cent. I can assure that by the time the term of this NDA government ends, the imports will be brought down to below 40 per cent,” Mr Parrikar said at a convention of ex-servicemen here.

“We don’t want war, but we annually spend nearly Rs. 3,40,000 crore for the preparation of war. If war takes place, we need to be fully prepared. Even after spending so much of money and we have to go to war while depending on others, we may land up in short-supply and at the critical juncture, we may land up in no supply,” he said.

“When we conducted nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998, whole western world, including the U.S., banned specific technologies. You cannot depend on import of critical materials for the security of the nation. Apart from security on weapons, we need to ensure energy security,” the Minister said.

“For the first time in the country, we are creating strategic reserves of fuel. It was never thought of by previous governments. China has created facilities for storage of crude oil for 20 days and the U.S. has 50 to 60 days of storage. India used to have five to six days of storage, mostly stocks in transit. There was absolutely no strategy for a strategic reserve,” he said.

Targeting the Congress, Mr Parrikar said, “Loot was going on in the last Congress regime. When I tabled details of the AgustaWestland deal in Parliament, the next day media started picking holes in other defence deals, including the acquisition of supporting vessels. If I start examining all decisions taken by the previous Congress regime, I won’t be able to do any work. It will be matter of concern.”

“They [including the Opposition] also demand blacklisting suppliers whose deals are suspicious. If I start blacklisting companies where will I bring spare parts used in their weapons? Exactly, the same had happened in Bofors case. In 1984, we purchased Bofors guns. When the issue of corruption was raised, the company was blacklisted. In 1999, during Kargil war, Bofors guns became useful to tackle enemies positioned at high altitude. We were forced to lift the ban,” said the Minister.

Regarding allowing 100 per cent FDI in the defence sector, Mr Parrikar allayed apprehensions that local industries would be impacted. “As per a 2016 guideline on defence procurement, the first priority will be given to equipment which is indigenously designed and developed.”

“The objective behind allowing FDI in the defence sector is India can become an exporter of defence products over a period of time. If a foreign company starts operating from Indian soil, it will create jobs for Indians,” Mr Parrikar said.

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