'India must reduce dependence on foreign arms'
"We are firm in our resolve to provide our armed forces with the latest equipment, but at the same time, we must reduce our dependence on foreign products," Antony told the armed forces personnel in his Independence Day eve address.
"Armed Forces all over the world are modernising and becoming technology-intensive. Our government remains committed to the modernisation of our armed forces. However, the modernisation process must go hand-in-hand with indigenisation," he said in a broadcast on All India Radio.
Pointing out to India's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant, which was launched for sea trials last month, he said: "Our short-term and long-term aim should be to make such examples the norm".
Image: Army soldiers and tanks take part in an army exercise at Pallu in Rajasthan. (Inset) Defence minister AK Antony
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters
'Govt has beefed up coastal security'
Indian armed forces currently import about 80 per cent of its weapons, platforms and systems.
Noting that last year's Mumbai terror attack brought out the extent of damage inflicted on a nation's economy and society, the Defence Minister said it was extremely important for the armed forces to "maintain eternal vigil" at all times.
Post 26/11, Antony said, the government had beefed up coastal security through acquisition of new systems and platforms.
Coast Guard, which plays an important role in coastal security, had set up a GPS Fisheries Alert Systems for the safety of fishermen, he said.
Antony said Coast Guard should complement the Navy's efforts in providing aid to merchant vessels and also check smuggling, adding the government wanted to equip coastal police stations too.
Image: A coast guard vessel takes part in a training exercise conducted under the national oil spill disaster contingency plan at the Gulf of Kutch
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
'We will defend our borders at all costs'
Referring to the recent Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections, conducted peacefully, Antony said it was possible due to the combined efforts of the local population and armed forces.
He also commended the security forces for the peaceful and successful conduct of the Amarnath Yatra that ended recently.
"It is largely due to your endeavour that several misguided youth have returned to the mainstream, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir. Our armed forces have also undertaken several welfare programmes in the North-Eastern states," he said, complimenting the personnel.
Image: A paramilitary soldier stands guard on the Jammu-Srinagar highway
Photographs: Amit Gupta/Reuters
'Welfare of service personnel is top priority'
Regarding the benefits being given to the personnel, Antony said the government had considerably improved the pay and allowances while approving of the Sixth Central Pay Commission, apart from increasing the pension for retired personnel.
"We accord top priority to the welfare of the service personnel, as well as ex-servicemen to boost their morale," he said.
Recently, the Defence Minister said, the government set up the Armed Forces Tribunal, which would exclusively deal with pending court cases relating to services and welfare of personnel.
The Tribunal would have its principal bench in Delhi and eight other benches across the country. Regarding women personnel, he said they were granted permanent commission in non-combat roles.
Image: Border Security Force soldier keeps watch along the fenced border with Bangladesh ahead of India's Independence Day
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
'Changes require a changed mindset'
"Changes like these require a changed mindset," he added.
Antony said the government laid emphasis on further improving the living condition of the armed forces, adding that 1.98 lakh dwelling units at a cost of Rs 17,358 crore were to be constructed in four phases under the project.
"In the first phase, 57,875 dwelling units are to be constructed, of which 39,693 have been completed. Construction of 66,727 units at Rs 9,396 crore under the second phase is to be taken up this year," he added.
Image: Army soldiers prepare to fire into air during funeral of Kashmiri Muslim soldier
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters