Sunday, 19 October 2014

PM’s Address at the Combined Commanders Conference - October 17, 2014

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Combined Commanders' Conference 2014 in New Delhi today.

Prime Minister said that India`s Armed Forces, which represent the world`s largest democracy, were second to none in professionalism, valour, commitment, service and duty. The Armed Forces have always vindicated the faith and confidence that people of India placed in them, whether it is for our nation`s security or for relief in times of natural calamities. He thanked the Armed Forces for their extraordinary service to the people during the floods in Jammu and Kashmir and the cyclone on the East Coast. He paid tribute to the tradition and training that inculcated the highest ideals and professional capabilities in our Armed Forces. The nation`s trust was the biggest strength of our Armed Forces.
Prime Minister noted that the world was looking at India with renewed interest, confidence and excitement and there was a universal current of expectation from India to emerge not only as one of the poles of the global economy, but also as one of the anchors of regional and global security.

Prime Minister emphasized that an atmosphere of peace and security was essential to enable India to achieve its goals of economic development. For this purpose, he said, his Government has focused on creating a favourable external environment and on strengthening India`s security.
Prime Minister outlined India`s key strategic and security challenges and priorities. He also observed that in addition to the familiar challenges, India had to be prepared for a changing world, which demanded new thinking on our part with regard to economic, diplomatic and security policies.

Prime Minister noted, that “beyond the immediate, we are facing a future where security challenges will be less predictable; situations will evolve and change swiftly; and, technological changes will make responses more difficult to keep pace with. The threats may be known, but the enemy may be invisible. Domination of cyber space will become increasingly important. Control of space may become as critical as that of land, air and sea. Full scale wars may become rare, but force will remain an instrument of deterrence and influencing behaviour, and the duration of conflicts will be shorter.”
Prime Minister assured the Armed Forces of his commitment to provide adequate resources to ensure full defence preparedness, overcome shortages and meet modernization needs. He also asked the defence establishment, including the Armed Forces, to reform procurement processes as also suggest corrective measures to avoid delays in domestic development and production of defence equipment.
Prime Minister urged the Armed Forces to focus on efficiency and economy in the use of resources and our military assets, including by greater integration and sharing of resources among the Services and draw up long term acquisition plans keeping in view availability of resources, future operational requirements and technology trends.

Prime Minister also noted, “We should remember that what matters is capability of the force.” He also said, “When we speak of Digital India, we would also like to see a Digital Armed Force,” and asked the Services to give serious thought to upgrade technological skills for effective projection of power by men.
The most important task, Prime Minister observed, was to transform our defence forces. He called for increased jointness and urged the three wings of the Services to work as a team all the way from the lowest levels of the Services to the top. He suggested a number of practical steps to achieve that goal. He also felt that Commanders Conferences should be organized alternately on sea, in forward Army camps and at air bases, and not just in Delhi. Prime Minister also assured the Commanders that he would continue the practice that he had started of meeting the three Chiefs at least once a month.

Outlining his vision of expanding domestic defence industrial base, he stressed the important role that the Services, as users, can play in this, both by committing to targets for domestic procurement and participating in innovation and improvements in domestically produced equipment.
Prime Minister also mentioned that he attached the highest priority to the welfare of Armed Forces personnel, both during and after their service careers. He assured the Commanders that he would do everything to fulfill the promises made on One Rank One Pension; improving service conditions; and, creating better safety nets and opportunities for services after retirement.

Excerpts of address by the PM at the Combined Commanders' Conference

It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak once again to this gathering of the senior-most leadership of our Armed Forces. Our men and women in uniform function in an exceedingly complex and difficult security environment, but they have always faced the challenge with exemplary professionalism, valour and commitment. As their leaders, you have played a critical role in building the confidence and pride that our forces inspire in our nation. I therefore thank each and every one of you for your services.

Let me at the outset pay solemn tribute to those who have in the past year laid down their lives in the service of our country. We remember with particular pain and sadness our sailors who perished in the submarine accident in Mumbai and our soldiers who died defending our borders and combating terrorism. We also recall our pilots and airmen, who sacrificed themselves to rescue precious lives in Uttarakhand. We owe a profound debt of gratitude to them. Equally, we remember many others whose stories did not become public but who were claimed by the daily risks of soldiering in inhospitable and hostile environments. They too served our country and served it well.

Friends, I do not intend my address today to be a rendition of our achievements in the arena of defence in this past year. You are already aware of those and know the subject much better. Instead, I wish to focus on the environment around us and what I think we need to do to ensure that our armed forces are fully enabled to handle it. Let me outline a few general points that come to mind before dealing with the unique security challenges that confront us in our neighbourhood.

Firstly, if you survey the global strategic environment over the past decade, it would not escape your notice that, just as the economic pendulum is shifting inexorably from west to east, so is the strategic focus, as exemplified by the increasing contestation in the seas to our east and the related "pivot" or "rebalancing" by the US in this area. This, to my mind, is a development fraught with uncertainty. We don't yet know whether these economic and strategic transitions will be peaceful, but that is the challenge this audience must grapple with institutionally.

Secondly, and evidently, globalization is a phenomenon that we have to deal with in every domain. But this in itself is not a new or a post- Cold War phenomenon. We only need recall Pliny and the Roman Empire and the bemoaning of the fact that the coffers of imperial Rome were being emptied to import silk and spice from the east. What is new today is the pace and texture of globalization driven by technology, including the ubiquitous Internet.

While globalization has induced growing and complex inter- dependencies among states and multinationals on the economic and trade front, it has also nurtured intense competition and rivalries in the security domain. Managing this contradictory tenor, which has been highlighted by the global surveillance operation mounted by the US National Security Agency, is also a policy imperative for us. Naturally, our objective must be to acquire tangible national capacity, or what the lexicon now refers to as comprehensive national power. This is the amalgam of economic, technological and industrial prowess, buttressed by the appropriate military sinews.

Thirdly, the first six decades after independence have seen the country facing many challenges to its territorial integrity and sovereignty. And the nation and its military have risen to the occasion every time. Fittingly, the people acknowledge the Indian military for its patriotism and professionalism. But what is the way ahead for the Indian military? We are committed to the path of peace but the military must be able to protect Indian interests if they are threatened or challenged. Thus, creating a military that is driven by abiding interests, as opposed to the transient threat, is the driving principle.

Coming to the situation in our neighbourhood, there is no doubt that we will continue to confront formidable challenges. Further afield, the continuing turmoil in West Asia could not only imperil our energy security and the livelihood and safety of seven million Indians, but also become a crucible for radicalism, terrorism, arms proliferation and sectarian conflict that could touch our shores too. The Asia Pacific region, with which our relations are intensifying in every domain, is equally critical, not least because it is becoming the arena for shaping the behavior of major powers.

Our higher defence organization should pay close attention to these specific developments. In addition, our strategic horizons should also include the need to protect our global seaborne trade in goods, energy and minerals, the well-being of Indian expatriate communities worldwide and the growing global footprint of Indian capital. As our capabilities grow, we will increasingly be called upon to help in natural disasters or zones of conflict and instability.

How to deal with these multiple questions is the task before you. Allow me to share with you some of my thoughts on what we need to do internally and make a few brief points.

I urge the Defence Ministry and the armed forces, as also the DRDO, to build on this experience and urgently review the different Task Force reports that our government has initiated with a view to achieving a higher index of indigenous capability in military inventory production. For too long, we have debated the merits of private versus public sector. It would be more useful to think in terms of aggregate national capacity that harnesses the full power of our public sector, private enterprises, research laboratories and universities to create an innovative and efficient indigenous base for production, research and development. We must also take advantage of a favourable international environment to build a domestic defence industrial base.

We require urgent and tangible progress in establishing the right structures) for higher defence management and the appropriate civil-military balance in decision making that our complex security environment\demands. Again, I encourage you to give this the highest professional consideration, harmonize existing differences among the individual services and evolve a blue-print for the future. I can assure you of the most careful consideration of your recommendations by the political leadership.

The two issues that I have just raised are also relevant to a looming and a serious challenge before us. We need to match our investment in military equipment and forces to our national resources. During most of the past decade, we have had the benefit of average annual growth rates of 8%. But the last two years have seen slow growth and we continue to face an uncertain international economic climate marked by volatile exchange rate fluctuations and the possibility of fragmenting trade regimes. I have no doubt that we will overcome our current economic slowdown, but we will have to exercise prudence in our defence acquisition plans and cut our coat according to our cloth. While we must take into account the capabilities of our adversaries, we have to plan our long term acquisition on the assumption of limited resource availability. This is an exercise that has to be done with a high degree of priority and urgency.

People are at the heart of our armed forces and it is the distinctive value system of the military that provides cohesion to its human resource. The globalization I referred to earlier and the rising levels of individual aspirations have had a significant impact on our people. The military is no exception. As the senior leadership, you are responsible for the lives and welfare of your men and women in uniform. As commanders, you also have to introspect over fidelity to inviolable principles and set an example. Where the institution has frayed, remedial policy initiatives are imperative and I urge you to heed the old adage that the management of human resources is of the highest importance to any military. The Indian military has an illustrious pedigree and there can be nobody who knows better than you how best to burnish it.

There have been concerns that have been raised in recent times about the nature of civil-military relations in our country. Let me assert, clearly and unequivocally, that the political leadership of India has the highest faith in its military and its institutional rectitude within the democratic framework. The apolitical nature of our military and its proven professionalism are the envy of the world and have also nurtured the Indian democratic experience. Our democracy and institutions have proven their ability to deal with any issues or doubts that may arise.

Friends, I know you will agree with me that the real strength of our country will come from an overriding sense of national purpose. We need to return our economy to the high growth path. We need to develop our industrial and manufacturing base. We need to unleash the power of innovation in India, so that we can find new solutions to our pressing challenges. We also need to make our economic development socially and economically more inclusive, regionally balanced and environmentally sustainable. Above all, we need to strengthen the values that define us - democracy, rule of law, individual liberties, social and religious harmony and commitment to global peace.

I know that our armed forces live by this creed and serve as an example to the rest of the world. They embody formidable strength, but wield it with maturity and responsibility. They are prepared for the toughest missions, but are committed to the cause of peace. They brave storms, extreme cold and searing heat to guard our nation, so that India can pursue its dreams. In the weeks and months ahead, our security challenges will remain complex but our resolve too must remain steadfast. I am confident that our armed forces will discharge their collective responsibility towards flag and country with the zeal and passion that has become their byword. I wish you all success in all your endeavours.

Thank you. Jai Hind. 

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