Noting that India faces multiple security challenges as it is in a difficult neighbourhood, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the country's deterrent capabilities have increased and is in a position to be a net provider of security in the Indian Ocean Region.
At the same time, he underlined the need for reorientation of the strategic thinking of country's higher defence organisation to meet the challenges and opportunities in the fast changing world "witnessing change on a scale and speed rarely seen before."
"India faces the entire spectrum of security challenges. This is inevitable as we live in a difficult neighbourhood, which holds the full range of conventional, strategic and non-traditional challenges," the prime minister said.
He was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of the Indian National Defence University in Binola village.
Singh said in the last nine years, "our deterrence capabilities have also matured and have been given concrete shape".
"We have also sought to assume our responsibility for stability in the Indian Ocean Region. We are well positioned, therefore, to become a net provider of security in our immediate region and beyond," he said.
The prime minister said the country was "better equipped today to deal with non-conventional threats, especially in the cyber and space domains. We are implementing a national architecture for cyber security and have taken steps to create an office of a national cyber security coordinator."
The prime minister said as our dependence on the cyber and outer space domains grows, "new sets of challenges will emerge, which can also assume military dimensions".
"The nature of conflict and competition is changing at the same time when national boundaries are being blurred by deepening global integration. Therefore, while defending and securing our homeland, we also have to be prepared to preserve India’s expanding international assets," Singh said.
Observing that world was witnessing a change on a scale and speed rarely seen before, Singh said this was more pronounced in Asia which was seeing multiple security challenges due to the "intersection of fragile states, internal conflicts, proliferation of arms and terror groups".
The prime minister said notwithstanding the multiple security challenges, the country must be conscious of the strategic opportunities.
"India's security has never been stronger than it is today and our international relationships have never been more conducive to our national development efforts. Our engagement in our immediate neighbourhood has increased. We have deepened political, economic and strategic relations in the Asia-Pacific, Indian Ocean and West Asian regions," he said.
Singh said India's relations with all major powers have become stronger and more productive and "we are also particularly participating in key global and regional fora, ranging from the Group of 20 to the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN groupings."
The prime minister said the defence university was meant to ensure that the country, government and armed forces benefit from the best military advice that was available.
Against the backdrop of scams such as the VVIP chopper scandal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was working towards making defence acquisitions "transparent" and "less vulnerable to unethical practices."
He said the government is taking steps to indigenise defence procurement and stimulate the development of the domestic defence industry.
"We have also been guided by the objective of making our defence acquisition transparent, smooth, efficient and less vulnerable to unethical practices. We will continue to seek the highest standards of probity in defence acquisition," Singh said.
The prime minister said the government is conscious of the fact that adequate defence preparedness is critically dependent on sound defence acquisition policies.
"We have paid close attention to this and have continually reformed those policies to ensure that our armed forces have the best equipment," he said.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of IndianNationalDefenceUniversity.
In the recent past, a number of scams have taken place in the defence ministry including the VVIP chopper scandal in which it is alleged that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore were paid to swing the deal in favour of Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland.
The defence ministry has banned a number of firms including foreign vendors from doing business with India after they were found violating their integrity pact with the government.
On the steps being taken by the government to indigenise defence industry, the prime minister said, "This is important not only to enhance our security, but also to spur industrial development and economic growth of our country."
"We must fully utilise the sophisticated management and technological capacities that are already present in our private sector, including in the defence field, not just for production but also for defence research and development," he said.
Singh said the government attaches highest priority to the task of providing defence and security to the country.
"We seek to advance peace, stability, friendship and cooperation in our region and beyond, and we do so with the confidence that our armed forces can defend our country against any threat. This confidence is based on the many steps that the government has taken to strengthen our nation’s defence capabilities," he said.
The prime minister said in the last few years, "We have added significantly to the land forces to protect our borders and inducted new equipment to increase the Army’s firepower."
"Our ability to service our frontiers with improved infrastructure and enhanced air mobility is considerably greater today than in the past. We have enhanced the full spectrum of capabilities of our Air Force and are equipping it to remain at the cutting edge of technology for the decades that lie ahead," he said.
Singh said the maritime region of the country is also more secure as the capabilities of the Navy have seen "enormous expansion" in the last five years.
"We have placed special emphasis on strengthening the capabilities of our Navy, which is fully equipped to operate at great distances from our shores, protect our maritime interests, respond to natural disasters and provide humanitarian assistance to the need," he said.