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
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
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 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. 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 these objectives.
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 challenges.
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
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 impact.
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 to grow.
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
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