Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said resumption of talks with Pakistan was to “try and turn the course of history” and to bring an end to terrorism but made it clear that the neighbouring country would be judged by its commitment on terrorism.
Modi also asserted that India will never drop its guard on security as he admitted that there are many challenges and barriers on the path.
Speaking to India’s top military commanders on board the country’s largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Modi said “we are engaging Pakistan to try and turn the course of history, bring an end to terrorism, build peaceful relations, advance cooperation and promote stability and prosperity in our region.
“There are many challenges and barriers on the path. But the effort is worth it because the peace dividends are huge and the future of our children is at stake. So, we will test their intentions to define the path ahead. For this, we have started a new NSA-level dialogue to bring security experts face to face with each other.
“But we will never drop our guard on security and we will continue to judge progress on their commitments on terrorism,” he said.
This is the first time that Modi has spoken on the relations with Pakistan after the two countries announced the re-engagement under bilateral comprehensive dialogue last week.
The announcement came after Modi had met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the climate change summit in Paris on November 30 where the two also agreed to hold NSA-level talks.
Addressing the first ever Combined Commanders Conference to be held outside the national capital, the Prime Minister warned against “reckless” nuclear build up and continuing military modernisation and expansion.
Modi said “our neighbourhood is most critical for our future and for our place in the world.
“But ours is a difficult neighbourhood with the full spectrum of security challenges. We see terrorism and ceasefire violations, reckless nuclear build-up and threats, border transgressions and continuing military modernisation and expansion. The shadow of West Asian instability is becoming longer,” he said.
Modi said beyond that, “our region is marked by uncertain political transitions, weak institutions and internal conflicts.
“And, major powers have also increased their engagement in our land and maritime neighbourhood,” he said.
Modi said that India is also pursuing closer relations with China to harness the full potential of the country’s economic partnership.
“We will aim to address outstanding issues, maintain stability on the border and develop greater mutual understanding and trust in our overlapping neighbourhood,” he said.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the relations with China and said he believes that India and China can engage constructively across the complexity of their relationship as two self-assured and confident nations, aware of their interests and responsibilities.
“We will continue to strengthen our defence capabilities and infrastructure, engage our neighbours more closely and strengthen our regional and global partnerships, including in maritime security,” he said.
Noting that in a world of rapid changes, India faces familiar threats and new ones, Modi said the country’s challenges cover land, sea and air at the same time.
“It includes the full range, from terrorism to conventional threat to a nuclear environment,” he said.
He said that India is confident that its defence forces are prepared to deter and defeat any misadventure.
“Our strategic deterrence is robust and reliable, in accordance with our nuclear doctrine, and our political will is clear,” he asserted.
Modi said that the country needs capabilities to win swift wars for we will not have the luxury of long-drawn battles.
“We must re-examine our assumptions that keep massive funds locked up in inventories. As our security horizons and responsibilities extend beyond our shores and borders, we must prepare our forces for range and mobility,” he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that “the armed forces must fully incorporate the power of digital networks and space assets into our capabilities.”
“Equally, we must be prepared to defend them, for they will be the first targets of our adversaries. And networks must be seamless and integrated across agencies and forces, and are precise, clear and quick in response,” he said.
Modi said that old rivalries can play out in new theatres such as space and cyber. “And new technologies offer us new ways to be more effective against both traditional and new challenges,” he said adding that “we in India must be ready for the present and prepare for the future.”
The Prime Minister noted that Kochi is at the head of the Indian Ocean and at the crossroads of India’s maritime history.
“India’s history has been influenced by the seas. And the passage to our future prosperity and security also lies on this ocean. It also holds the key to the fortunes of the world,” he said.
Modi said India has extended its reach in the Indian Ocean Region, and for the first time articulated a clear strategy for its maritime region.
“We have raised our engagement with Africa to a new level,he said adding that India has also retraced its ancient links to Central Asia.
“We have established closer relations and security cooperation in West Asia and Gulf even as we have revived our close relations with Iran,” he said.
The Prime Minister pointed out that as the world seeks to deal with rising threat of terrorism and radicalism, countries across all regions, including in the Islamic world, have reached out to seek cooperation with India.
He said the armed forces’ responsibilities are no longer confined to borders and coastlines and extend to “our interests and citizens, spread across a world of widespread and unpredictable risks.”
Modi noted that as world gets transformed, the character of economies change and technology evolves, the nature of conflicts and the objectives of war will also change.
Modi added that the government has sped up the process of defence procurements and has approved many long-pending acquisitions.
“We are taking firm steps to address shortages and cater for replacements. We are advancing the pace of expansion of border infrastructure and improve the mobility of our forces and equipment. This includes the strategic railways to the border region,” he said.
The Prime Minister also said the government was transforming defence manufacturing in India through “radically new” policies and initiatives.
“Our public sector is gearing up to the challenge. The private sector has responded with great enthusiasm.
“And foreign defence companies are coming here with ambitious new proposals for Make in India, from fighter jets and helicopters to transport aircraft and UAVs, from avionics to advanced material.
“We can never call ourselves a secure nation and a strong military power unless we develop domestic capabilities.
This will also reduce capital costs and inventories. In addition, it will be a huge catalyst for industry, employment and economic growth in India,” he said.
Modi promised to soon reform procurement policies and process. And our offsets policy will become a strategic tool for improving our capabilities in defence technologies, he said.
“Defence technology will now be a national endeavour that taps the potential of all institutions in our country.
Armed Forces will be crucial to the success of Make in India Mission. I am encouraged by your localization plans, especially in the capital intensive Navy and Air Force,” he said.
Modi asked the Commanders for clear targets and goals on domestic acquisition, more clarity on specifications, and greater involvement of forces in innovation, design and development, especially from those who wield the weapons in the field.
“Above all, we look to our armed forces to prepare for the future. And, it cannot be achieved by doing more of the same, or preparing perspective plans based on outdated doctrines and disconnected from financial realities,” he said.
The Prime Minister said that in the course of the past year, he has seen progress “but I also feel that our forces and our government need to do more to reform their beliefs, doctrines, objectives and strategies.
“We must define our aims and our instruments for the changing world. At a time when major powers are reducing their forces and rely more on technology, we are still constantly seeking to expand the size of our forces.
“Modernisation and expansion of forces at the same time is a difficult and unnecessary goal. We need forces that are agile, mobile and driven by technology, not just human valour,” he said.
He said one should promote jointness across every level of the armed Forces.
“We wear different colours but we serve the same cause and bear the same flag. Jointness at the top is a need that is long overdue.
“Senior military leaders must have experience of tri-service commands, experience in technology-driven environment and exposure to the full spectrum of challenges from terrorism to strategic.”
“We need military commanders who not only lead brilliantly in the field but are also thought leaders who guide our forces and security systems into the future,” he said.
The Prime Minister stressed that “one should learn from the experience of the others, but must frame our systems and commands on our own genius.”
“Our National Defence University will be a reality soon,” he said adding that “we also need reforms in senior defence management.”
“It is sad that many defence reform measures proposed in the past have not been implemented. This is an area of priority for me.
“We must also have a comprehensive strategy for external defence engagement, to develop our capabilities and fulfill our responsibilities to advance peace and stability, including in our extended maritime region,” he said.