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Thursday, October 22, 2009

PM’s address at the Combined Commanders’ Conference

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, addressed the Combined Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:

“On behalf of the Nation, I commend the Armed Forces for their devotion to duty in safeguarding our country’s unity and integrity. Our country is proud of our men and women in uniform, and is indebted to them for their defence of our borders on the land, sea and air.

During the past year, the Armed Forces have played a stellar role in assisting civil authority in meeting the challenges in Jammu and Kashmir and tackling the insurgencies in the North-East. You have rendered invaluable service during natural calamities, including in the recent flood relief operations. Your sacrifice, courage and bravery are a source of inspiration, and an example, for the entire country.

There have been momentous developments in our country and in the international arena since I last addressed this Conference. The country successfully held its fifteenth general election this year. This was the largest democratic exercise the world has ever seen, and is a tribute to the strength of our institutions. We have matured as a democratic, pluralistic and secular society and this is a matter of justifiable pride for every Indian.

The Nation also witnessed the horrific terrorist attack on Mumbai, and we will be observing its first anniversary in a few weeks from now. The Mumbai attack confirmed our worst fears about the lethal dimensions of terrorism and non-traditional threats to our security.

There are both State and non-State actors involved in the business of terrorism. India is a democracy and an open society and is, therefore, sometimes highly vulnerable. We have, therefore, to improve our defensive mechanisms against all forms of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and aggravated militancy. We need to be prepared to face onslaughts of this kind, but we should avoid kneejerk reactions.

The Government has taken several steps to strengthen the intelligence and security machinery and coordination between the Centre and the States.

Although there has been no major terrorist attack in India since then, there are regular intelligence reports of imminent attacks in the country. This is a matter of deep concern, and there is no room for complacency. The terrorist attack on our Embassy in Kabul on October 8 is yet another grim reminder of the forces we are pitted against. The overall situation in our immediate neighbourhood has worsened since I last spoke to you.

Beyond such an environment in our periphery, we face other challenges. The global economic and financial crisis has affected our growth, our exports, and the inflow of the foreign investment into India . The drought in several States has further impacted the most vulnerable sections of our society during the current year. There are incipient signs of recovery in the global economy, but it is not yet certain whether this represents a return to a secular and self-sustaining growth path. Despite these negative factors, the Indian economy has shown remarkable resilience. Our growth rate in the current year will be 6 - 6.5 percent. We are today the second fastest growing economy in the world.

Global efforts to combat climate change have rightly gathered momentum. However, there are concerted attempts by the developed countries to impose new obligations on developing countries like India to limit emission of greenhouse gases. This could impact on our economic development.

Food security and energy security are central to our development goals. Given our vast demands, we have to ensure that our interests are adequately protected in all international discussions on these issues.

There is a revival of interest on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues. We welcome this, because India was a pioneer in the campaign for a nuclear weapons free world. We, however, have to ensure that discriminatory standards and approaches are not perpetuated. As a responsible nuclear weapon state, we wish to see nuclear disarmament that is global, non-discriminatory and universal in nature. We are ready to negotiate a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty which is multilateral, non-discriminatory and verifiable.

To meet these different challenges we must be strong internally. We cannot rely on others to solve our problems for us. This requires a well thought national response and judicious policy prescriptions. It also means creative and constructive engagement with the outside world based on enlightened self-interest, and autonomy in the processes of decision making.

In a short span of one year, the G-20 process has become the most visible sign of the emerging multipolarity in world affairs. India ’s views in this forum are heard with respect. We have been able to bring the issues of concern to us on the mainstream international agenda. India is now seen as a part of the solution to overcome the global economic slowdown, and a growth pole of the world economy.

The Armed Forces must be fully equipped to deal with all threat scenarios. Our troops should be trained to fight anywhere, anytime and under any conditions. Their ability to deal with non-traditional threats must receive greater attention.

Our Government is fully committed to the modernization of Armed Forces and ensuring their military superiority and technological edge. The modernization plan should have a long term perspective, and be formulated in an integrated manner involving all the three services. Despite the progress that has been made towards jointness and synergy in various operational, training and administrative aspects between the services, there are a number of areas of congruence that need to be strengthened further.

The availability of critical technologies from foreign countries is still subject to various technology denial regimes. It is therefore vital that we achieve maximum self-reliance in the critical areas of defence technology.

I would like to compliment the Defence Research and Development Organisation for the work it has done against many odds. Today, Indian industry is in a position to participate in defence production and research and development activities, and we should devise policies to harness this vast pool of knowledge and resources efficiency.

I am aware that the procedures for defence acquisitions and procurement are a matter of concern to the Armed Forces. This is an area which requires collective action on all sides. We must ensure a balance between the needs of timely modernization and the necessity of conforming to the highest standards of transparency, probity and public accountability. Outlays on defence expenditure have progressively gone up, but they also have to be used judiciously and efficiently.

Manpower is the most important resource for war fighting. We will take all measures necessary to ensure that the Armed Forces continue to attract the brightest and the best of our youth. As senior Commanders, it should be your endeavour to ensure that these men and women constantly upgrade their skills and remain ahead of the technology curve. This will not only make them better soldiers, but also more productive citizens on the completion of their service.

I am heartened by the growing social awareness of the need to ensure the welfare of ex-servicemen. The resettlement and rehabilitation of ex-servicemen will continue to remain a high priority for the government.

The Indian Armed Forces have earned high respect for their professionalism and competence throughout the world. This is in no small measure due to the personal leadership each one of you has provided to the men and women in uniform. The Nation is united in its resolve to ensure that our military remains a modern, well-knit and invincible fighting force.

Jai Hind.” 

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