Following is the text
of Prime Minister’s address to the Combined Commanders’ Conference in
New Delhi today:
“It gives me great pleasure to address once again this annual conference
of the leaders of our armed forces. India is proud, and rightly so, of
the achievements of its officers and men and women in uniform. Be it in
the line of fire or in aiding civilian authorities to carry out relief
and rescue activities, the armed forces have regularly answered the call
of duty and brought exemplary dedication to their task. For their
bravery and their many sacrifices, the nation is eternally grateful.
In the year that has passed since we last met here, India has confronted
persistent challenges on the external front. Global economic recovery
has failed to materialize. The continuing uncertainty and weaknesses in
the Eurozone economies have hobbled the pace of growth, including in
Asian economies. Inevitably, India too has had to deal with the fallout
of slowing growth, falling exports and expanding deficits.
Our security challenges, including cross-border terrorism, transnational
crime and drug trafficking, remain diverse and serious. Added to these
are new challenges in areas that constitute the ‘global commons’ – such
as Space, the high seas and cyber-space. India has been a strong
proponent of efforts to promote international peace, security and
development and to act as a factor of stability in our region and
beyond. Our size, technological capabilities and standing as a
responsible state contribute to our ability to engage in regional and
global efforts to shape responses to existing and emerging challenges.
In the political arena too, our neighbourhood remains complex with
elements of instability. All around us, we see a churning of the
political, economic and social systems of various countries with
We cannot hope to develop and grow peacefully while our immediate
neighbours struggle with poverty, strife and underdevelopment. Our
external policies will therefore emphasize friendly and cooperative ties
with our neighbours. We will also focus on establishing greater
connectivity in South Asia and our expanded neighbourhood to promote the
movement of goods, services, investment and technology so that we can
act as a motor of growth in this region. The Services are an inalienable
arm of our diplomatic outreach and I expect them to play a full and
effective role in this national endeavour.
Our immediate geo-strategic environment comes with its own conventional,
strategic and non-conventional security challenges. India’s strategic
calculus has long encompassed the waters from the Gulf of Aden to the
Straits of Malacca. Very recently, we have seen precisely these areas
turn once again into fresh theatres of contestation.
We have consistently maintained that all issues must be resolved
peacefully through dialogue. Wherever feasible, multilateral and
international organizations such as the IAEA and the United Nations must
be allowed to play their due role.
Even as we formulate responses to foreign and security-related
challenges, concrete increases in our comprehensive national strength
can come only if we solve our most pressing domestic problems.
Affordable healthcare, quality education, remunerative jobs and reliable
infrastructure for our people are fundamental to unlocking the human
potential of India, which, to my mind, is limitless. The resources we
need to do this can be generated only through economic growth at a
faster rate than is the case today.
We need an aggregate growth rate of 8 per cent per annum to create new
job opportunities for more than 10 million persons who are going to
enter our labour force each year. This is not going to be an easy task,
given the international economic environment. However, it is not
unattainable if we make determined efforts to increase our investment
rate to 37-38 per cent as was the case three years ago.
We also have to create an environment conducive for increased investment
and savings rates, paying particular attention to investment in
infrastructure sectors. Simultaneously, we have to work hard to improve
the environment of internal security, ensuring communal harmony and
control over disruptive forces such as terrorism, insurgency and left
wing extremism. Our government remains committed to the achievement of
As India grows, so will the responsibilities associated with protecting
our new-found equities. For example, an expansion of our exports and a
diversification of their destinations will call for equal measures to
protect them from threats such as piracy. The security of our sea lanes
would be equally vital in ensuring our energy security and access to
other vital natural resources. Indian expatriates and our overseas
investments, already present around the globe, are also going to be in
need of assurances regarding their well-being. Security, therefore, will
remain a pre-eminent and key pillar of our national strength. The
Services, which are an important institution of our democratic and
secular structure, will have to equip themselves to meet these evolving
Addressing these challenges will require addressing issues of joint-ness
and skills, of training, doctrines and strategies, and of integrated
decision-making structures and weaponry, all of which will need to be
supported by indigenous research and production capabilities. These
issues require constructive debate, not just about our strategic
options, but also on our need to develop composite capabilities.
As commanders, you are all aware that growing complexities must be met
by comprehensive responses. We should aim to abandon single service or
segmented approaches and develop synergies across services.
Compartmentalized views will only delay our response and dilute its
In particular, there is a need to increase our capabilities in emerging
areas like cyber and space, which can be the sources of new threats. We
must therefore reorient our mindsets and define a long-term integrated
perspective that aligns these capabilities with envisaged outcomes. It
is my hope that the commanders will discuss these issues and not limit
themselves to only material capabilities.
Preparedness is a function of modernizing and indigenizing our defence
research, production and acquisition infrastructure. Our acquisition
processes and procedures must stay abreast of global best practices. The
Defence Public Sector Undertakings and Ordnance Factories too need to do
more in absorbing technology and building capacities. They must also
learn to adapt quickly in order to respond to changing needs and provide
the required confidence to the users of their products.
Fortunately, the Indian private sector is now in a position to
contribute to the defence industrial base and must be leveraged in the
nation’s interest. Without this, the users’ levels of dissatisfaction
due to time and cost overruns and technological obsolescence are bound
Many of the issues I have referred to above deserve greater debate and
inquiry. You would all be aware that, in addition to the Task Force led
by Shri Naresh Chandra on security structures and decision-making
processes, we had also asked another Task Force led by Shri Ravindra
Gupta to look into the issue of defence modernization and self reliance.
Both these reports have been submitted and I understand they have made a
number of very valid and relevant suggestions. It would be in our
national interest to evolve an early consensus on their recommendations.
In this forum of leaders, I do not need to emphasize that leadership is
the touchstone that will define the end result of any conflict and the
outcome we are able to achieve. Technical excellence and domain
knowledge are important in this regard. Equally, as leaders, your task
is to grow more leaders. I am sure that adequate attention is being
given to this aspect and that building the next generation of leadership
is something that you are focusing on.
To conclude, let me re-emphasize the nation’s implicit trust in the
professionalism, competence, commitment and dedication to duty of the
Indian armed forces. The nation is fortunate to have military leaders
like you. I wish your deliberations all success.”