New Delhi, July 31 (IANS): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today warned of "a net deterioration" in the international security and strategic environment, pointing to political uncertainties in India's neighbourhood, terrorism and cyber threats as well as the civil strife in the Middle East.
Addressing the defence research community here, Manmohan Singh also noted that the situation presented "complex challenges" that required both conventional and technological responses. "As we look around us, a net deterioration in the international strategic and security environment becomes so obvious," he said at an event to present the annual Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) awards here.
"Political uncertainties in our immediate and extended neighbourhood, civil strife and turmoil in the Middle East, terrorism and threats to cyber security present complex challenges that require both conventional as well as technological responses," he said.
The Prime Minister also told the DRDO scientists that the government was fully committed to modernising the country's armed forces and providing them with the wherewithal they need to secure the frontiers.
"The question is how we can procure the requisite cutting edge technologies and platforms, even while promoting indigenously developed technologies that meet the required time and quality assurances standards. The reality is that the share of indigenous content in defence procurement continues to be low," he said.
"We need to take a hard look at the pipeline of our projects and focus our time and material resources on selected areas where we have demonstrated capacity to deliver projects within reasonable time and cost," he added.
Noting that India needs to build its domestic defence industry, both in the public and private sectors, in the longer term, Manmohan Singh it has to reach a level where it can compete with global players, not only in terms of developing state-of-the-art technologies, but also on commercial parameters and customer satisfaction.
"Some of our companies already have the capacity to develop large sub-systems. The challenge now is to create greater incentives for domestic industry to develop capabilities for system integration, which at present only a few companies have.
"We need to give the industry a boost and quicken the pace of development. The role of DRDO in this regard is truly critical, given that there are 800 enterprises supporting its projects and programmes," he said.
Referring to the Naresh Chandra committee report on national security that the government is currently examining, the prime minister noted that it called for a long-term policy for increasing indigenisation of defence production and high-tech industries in consultation and collaboration with the private sector.
Expressing happiness over DRDO collaboration with FICCI to develop a bio-toilet that promises to solve problem of open defecation in rural India, Manmohan Singh said if the "green, cost-effective flush and forget technology" is successfully implemented, it would give "a big boost" to India's total sanitation campaign.
"Application of technology to social benefit programmes should be expanded further. I would like to see a flagship national project on a major system in which DRDO can use its research and development expertise and synergise it with the production and project management skills available in our private industry. Such collaboration will bring greater efficiency to the work of DRDO and also allow it to focus on its core mandate of research and development," he added.
Touching upon the Rama Rao review committee report on redefining DRDO, he said one of the recommendations was to rejuvenate the culture of research in the organisation and set apart a certain percentage of the budget for research and development activities.
The report also highlighted another issue that could slow down India's ambitious plans for development of high technology sector, namely, the growing difficulty in attracting and retaining high quality scientific manpower.
"There are no easy solutions to this problem. What is clear is that we have to change our current bureaucratic system of administering scientific and technical departments, particularly if we have to inspire young scientists to participate enthusiastically in the task of building India into a scientific and technological powerhouse."