"Ties with neighbours key to our socio-economic transformation"

Maintaining that preoccupation of ‘most major powers' with their own domestic problems has made the task of effective and coordinated global response to international issues much more difficult, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said India must strengthen its own capabilities and be ready to stand on its ‘own feet.'

Speaking at the Combined Commanders' Conference of Armed Forces here on Tuesday, Dr. Singh said the international strategic and political environment had deteriorated from India's point of view and internal and external policies must take into account the changed ground realities.

On India's immediate neighbourhood, Dr. Singh said the government had paid special attention to the region on the conviction that the task of India's socio-economic transformation would always be more difficult and less likely to succeed if relations with neighbours were not managed properly.

His prescription for better ties with the neighbours was to give them ‘a substantial stake' in India's economic progress and stability. Dr. Singh made no reference to any particular country either in the neighbourhood or the extended region.

On terrorism, he said India's response called for appropriate measures as the terror groups were highly networked, nimble footed and more lethal. “Cyber threats are emerging as a major source of worry. Cyber and information warfare could qualitatively change the concept of a battlefield. Nuclear proliferation and nuclear security remain a serious threat in our neighbourhood.”

Dr. Singh said India should be justifiably proud of the excellent civil-military relations that were the bed rock of the country's democracy and emphasised the need to continuously build upon the tradition and leverage the combined will of the nation to meet new and emerging threats.

It was the responsibility of the government to equip the armed forces with all the necessary means to meet all threats, including those which go beyond conventional warfare.

“We must focus much more on maritime security and on securing our coastline, our exclusive economic zone, our island territories and the sea lanes of communication.”

Assuring that the government would never fight shy of finding the funds for the modernisation of forces, the Prime Minister said the development of an indigenous defence industry was a national security objective.

Dr. Singh said the new Defence Production Policy was a step in the right direction to promote a viable defence industry using the large industrial and skill base.

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