Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday stressed upon the need for increasing the country’s capabilities in emerging areas like cyber and space which could be the sources of new threats.

Addressing the annual combined commanders conference in New Delhi, he told the top military commanders that growing complexities must be met by comprehensive responses. “We should aim to abandon single or segmented approaches and develop synergies across services. Compartmentalised views will only delay our response and dilute its impact,” he said.

The Prime Minister told the top commanders of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy that India's security challenges remain “diverse and serious” in the form of cross-border terrorism, transnational crime and drug trafficking.” Added to these are new challenges in areas that constitute the ‘global commons’ such as space, the high seas and cyber space,” he said.

Dr. Singh also spoke about the need to protect “new found equities” like securing the sea lanes for energy security. “We must therefore reorient our mindsets and define a long-term integrated perspective that aligns these capabilities with envisaged outcomes.”

Noting that security will remain a “pre-eminent and key pillar” of national strength, the Prime Minister said the Services will have to equip themselves to meet the evolving challenges. To meet these challenges, he said, it would require addressing issues of joint-ness and skills, of training, doctrines and strategies, and of integrated decision-making structures and weaponry.

In the past year, Dr. Singh said, India has confronted persistent challenges on the external front. “Global economic recovery has failed to materialise. 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,” he said.

Pointing out that India has been a strong proponent of efforts to promote international peace, security and development, he said that India’s sheer size, technological capabilities and standing as a responsible state contribute to its ability to engage in regional and global efforts to shape responses to existing and emerging challenges.

In the political arena too, Dr. Singh said: “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 uncertain outcomes.”

“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,” he said.

Stating that the Services remain “an inalienable arm of our diplomatic outreach”, the Prime Minister said that he would 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,” he told the top commanders.

Reiterating India’s stand that all issues must be resolved peacefully through dialogue, he said that international organizations such as the IAEA and the U.N. must be allowed to play their due role.

On modernising and indigenising the defence research, production and acquisition infrastructure, he said that 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.”

Noting that the Indian private sector was in a position to contribute to the defence industrial base, he said it must be leveraged in the nation’s interest.

In addition to the Task Force, led by Naresh Chandra on security structures and decision-making processes, another Task Force led by Ravindra Gupta to look into the issue of defence modernization and self reliance have submitted their reports. “It would be in our national interest to evolve an early consensus on their recommendations,” he said.

He said that national strength could come only if the country was able to solve its most pressing domestic problems. He said that affordable healthcare, quality education, remunerative jobs and reliable infrastructure were fundamental to unlocking the human potential of India.

Stressing that India needed to clock an aggregate growth rate of 8 per cent per annum to create new job opportunities for more than 10 million persons who were going to enter labour force each year, Dr. Singh said it was not going to be an easy task, given the international economic environment.

“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,” he pointed out.

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