Addressing the 93rd Annual Convention of Industry body FICCI, through video conferencing in New Delhi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the Covid-19 pandemic has brought many new challenges to the country and the government has taken various steps to mitigate its adverse impacts concerning both lives and livelihoods. Utmost priority has been given first to save lives and the medical fraternity made every possible effort to minimise the loss of lives, he said.
Referring to the government’s efforts on the economic front, Rajnath Singh said, after the nationwide lockdown, it was said that it would take more than one or two years for India to reverse the 23.9 percent contraction in GDP, that was witnessed in the first quarter of this financial year. “But India bounced back in no time. In the second quarter, the Indian economy registered a 7.5 per cent contraction in its GDP and the manufacturing sector registered a 0.6 per cent growth in the second quarter as against a 39.3 percent contraction in first-quarter.”
Rajnath Singh elaborated, following this development, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) changed its forecast for the Indian economy, projecting 8 per cent contraction in 2020-21 as compared to 9 percent de-growth estimated earlier.
Pointing out the strength of economy, he said in April-August 2020, India received the highest ever total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the first five months which was $35.73 billion, 13% higher than that in the same period last fiscal. “All of this has been made possible by the help of ‘Inspired India’ which is guided and motivated by the bold and decisive leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and timely policy interventions by the government,” Rajnath Singh said.
The Defence Minister urged the industry to “Catch the next wave for lowering global manufacturing costs and look into the ways and means to ensure that India becomes a global manufacture hub soon.”
Rajnath Singh hoped that the defence sector will play a significant role in contributing towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat Initiative and to the revival of growth in the economy. He added that “It’s not a very comforting fact that as one of the largest armed forces of the world, we are so import-dependent in critical areas. While we have made some important strides in defence production, a lot more can and must be done.”
He emphasised, “We have opened doors to the private sector, incentivized domestic production, are creating defence corridors and doing a lot more. We are also willing to engage in meaningful joint ventures and partnerships with other countries.”
Rajnath Singh expressed confidence that the new Defence Acquisition Procedure along with the earlier decision to increase FDI in defence through the automatic route to 74 per cent will provide an impetus to domestic manufacturing and development with the induction of newer technologies and global best practices.
He said a negative import list of 101 items has been released to give a boost to domestic manufacturing. This will especially provide an opportunity to the private sector to enter into the defence manufacturing space. He also expressed confidence that the private sector will remain an active participant in achieving the turnover of Rs 1,75,000 crore and exports of Rs 35,000 crore. He explained, a 20 lakh crore package announced by the government in May 2020 addressed a number of challenges faced by the country.
The focus of this initiative is also aimed at providing a major impetus to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative. “Launch of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’ is a Watershed moment in the economic history of India”, he said. He said nearly 81 lakh MSMEs have taken advantage of Prime Minister Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package.
Rajnath Singh mentioned that India has helped people across the globe, besides helping itself to recover from the Covid-19 crisis. “Whether it is evacuation, or supply of medicines, or any other kind of help, India is taking everyone along.”
On the agricultural sector reforms, the Defence Minister said they have been undertaken keeping in mind the best interests of India’s farmers. However, the government is always willing to listen to our farmer brothers, alley their misgivings and provide them with assurances we can provide. “Our Government is always open to discussion and dialogue,” he said.
Referring to the unprovoked aggression on Himalayan frontiers, he said there is big build-up of armed forces at the LAC in Ladakh. “However, in these testing times our forces have shown exemplary courage and remarkable fortitude, fought the PLA with utmost bravery and forced them to go back.” he said.
Rajnath Singh said there can be a serious debate on who owns more military might but when it comes to soft power there is no scope of ambiguity. “India is far ahead of China when it comes to leading the world with ideas.” He said.
On cross-border terrorism, he said that India had been its victim and fought the scourge alone even when there was no one to support us. But later, the world understood we were right about Pakistan being the fountainhead of terrorism.