Excerpts from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech to the top commanders of the armed forces at a conference in New Delhi.
The Nation is proud of the selfless devotion to duty displayed by the officers and men and women in uniform and on behalf of the Nation, I convey our gratitude to each and everyone of you and your families.
The Indian Armed Forces are a hallmark of professionalism and national integration. Your contributions during times of natural disasters across the country, and most recently in Leh, have been invaluable. They have saved precious lives and brought relief and hope to the worst affected. In Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East you have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with civil authority to protect the Nation's vital interests.
Our Armed Forces deserve the best and I wish to assure you that the Government will make every effort to ensure this. No country can make progress without ensuring its security and territorial integrity.
As our economy grows and our technological capabilities expand we must set higher standards for the modernisation of our defence forces. It is not enough for us to keep pace with change. When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve. Defence modernisation, however, is a complex task. If it is to be effective it must involve the full chain starting with updating our war fighting doctrines to meet new threats to our security, preparation of appropriate staff quality requirements and creating a broad-based production and delivery infrastructure on the ground.
The other integral part of our defence preparedness is border infrastructure. This involves not just our land borders but also ensuring appropriate coastal security. Several measures have been taken and are underway but it is important that all Ministries and Departments work in close coordination to ensure timely implementation of existing plans. It is necessary to approach this task with a sense of urgency.
In the ultimate analysis the strength of a nation flows from the strength of its institutions, its values and its economic competitiveness. If India is looked upon today with respect and seen as a force for the future it is because of the stable and orderly fashion in which we are transforming the lives of our people. Transformation on such a scale, within the framework of a democratic and pluralistic society, has not been seen in the world before. If we succeed, our example will have repercussions for the new global order.
We have always prided ourselves on preserving our strategic autonomy, and this is an article of faith for us. India is too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional or sub-regional arrangements, whether trade, economic or political. If we are to sustain a growth rate of 9 to 10 percent in the foreseeable future, we require foreign capital inflow, both portfolio and direct investment, the best of modern technology and access to markets of the advanced economies. We have to modernise our infrastructure. For all this, we need to maintain healthy relations with all major powers.
In global terms, we are witnessing a shift of economic and political power to Asia. The Asia-Pacific region, including South East Asia, needs much more attention by us, and this must seep into our defence and foreign policy planning as never before. There is a palpable desire on the part of the countries of this region to enhance cooperation with us which we must reciprocate.
Some of our toughest challenges lie in our immediate neighbourhood. The fact is that we cannot realise our growth ambitions unless we ensure peace and stability in South Asia.
The countries of the Gulf, West Asia and Central Asia are our natural partners. We have tangible interests in these regions, among which energy security is one of the most important. We have to ensure adequate availability of commercial energy to support our growth targets.
This requires not only diversification of the sources of our energy imports but also the widening of our overall energy mix. It is in this context that we need to operationalise our nuclear energy option, which holds great promise and is a necessity.
The unrest in the State of Jammu & Kashmir over the last few weeks is a matter of concern. The youth of Kashmir are our citizens and their grievances have to be addressed. We have to ensure better delivery of services and generate avenues for economic advancement for the people of that State. We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our Constitution.
In the North-East, the situation in general is better today than it was in the recent past, but some areas of concern still remain.
Naxalism is a serious challenge to our internal security. We will do all that is necessary to protect each and every citizen of our country, and deal firmly with those who resort to violence. This is a collective task involving the Centre and the States. At the same time we have to accelerate our development efforts in the naxal affected areas and make our administrative machinery more sensitive and responsive to local concerns.
The Indian economy has weathered the global economic crisis of 2008 better than most of the large economies of the world. We have the advantage of a continental sized economy and a large internal market, but our challenge will be to ensure that our growth is balanced across all regions and reaches all sections of our society. Given our young demographic profile, we will also have to ensure access to good quality education and health services to all. We have put in place a National Skill Development Mission to empower our youth which will yield positive results.
The Armed Forces have and must continue to serve as a shining example for all citizens of India. As leaders of a modern military, each of you has an important role to play in the transformation of the services. The country expects much from you and looks to you for your continued leadership. The country will consistently accord priority to issues related to equipment, training and welfare of our soldiers and ex-servicemen. We will do all that is necessary to ensure that the armed forces attract the best talent in the country. I would also like you to know that the sacrifices of the men and women of the Armed Forces will never go in vain.
I wish to once again place on record my deepest gratitude and appreciation for your professionalism and competence. I wish you the very best in the service of the Nation and greater glory to the mighty Indian Armed Forces.