Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hit out at the previous United Progressive Alliance government for 'policy paralysis' in the defence sector and told foreign companies that it will not take a decade to take a decision on procurement of a batch of 110 fighter jets.
In his address after inaugurating the four-day Defence Expo in Thiruvidanthai, Tamil Nadu, Modi said 'laziness, incompetence or perhaps some hidden motives' of the previous government had badly impacted the defence sector.
Policy paralysis in the defence sector during the previous regime had affected the country's military preparedness, the prime minister said, adding that the National Democratic Alliance government's efforts to build a partnership with defence industries will be guided by the 'highest ideals of integrity and probity'.
"There was a time when the critical issue of defence preparedness was hampered by policy paralysis. We have seen the damage such laziness, incompetence or perhaps some hidden motives can cause to the nation. Not now, not anymore, never," he said.
Modi also took a dig at the UPA regime for failing to conclude a deal to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) after a long-drawn selection process.
"You would also recall the long-drawn process of procurement of fighter aircraft that never reached any conclusion. We have not only taken bold action to meet our immediate critical requirements, but have also initiated a new process to procure 110 fighter aircraft. We do not want to spend 10 years in discussions without any tangible outcomes," he said.
The government last week began the process to procure around 110 fighter jets by issuing an RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender. It is the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets after the government scrapped the process to acquire 126 MMRCA for the Indian Air Force about five years ago.
"We will work with you with a sense of mission to keep our defence forces equipped with state-of-the-art systems, and to create the necessary domestic manufacturing ecosystem to achieve this. And, in all our efforts to pursue efficiency and effectiveness in partnership with you, we will be guided by the highest ideals of integrity and probity," he said.
Following scrapping of the MMRCA deal, the NDA government in September 2016 signed a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for the purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.
Ramping up its attack on the government over the Rafale issue, the Congress claims that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi government to procure the Rafale jets.
The UPA government floated a tender in 2007 for the purchase of 126 MMRCA for the Air Force. After negotiations, only Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon remained in the reckoning. However, the deal could not be finalised by the UPA regime
Modi said the government was committed to making India a leading manufacturer of defence equipment and building two defence industrial corridors, 'with room for everyone'.
"We are committed to establishing two defence industrial corridors: one in Tamil Nadu and other in Uttar Pradesh. These will utilize defence manufacturing ecosystems in the regions and further build upon it. The corridors will become engines of economic development and growth of defence industrial base," he said.
Modi said venture capital and start-ups in defence sector will be encouraged.