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Indian Army to conduct joint exercises with several countries

Written by: Staff
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Kolkata, Apr 3 (UNI) Indian armed forces will conduct a number of joint exercises with the British, Australian, Malaysian and the American forces in the coming months to improve its defence preparations.

''It is not only with the American forces that we are conducting the joint military exercises in different fields, but also with a number of other major military powers too'', Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt said here today.

Speaking to newspersons after participating in a CII sponsored interactive session on 'Indian Incorporated: The Consortium Approach'', Mr Dutt said since both India and the participating countries would benefit immensely from such joint exercises, more such joint exercises should be conducted frequently by the Army, Navy and the Airforce personnel.

The recent joint exercises with the US marines and the US airforce personnel in Mizoram and in Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal had gone a long way in improving the bilateral relations between the two countries, the Defence Secretary opined.

Moreover, in order to improve the quality of defence procurement for the country, the Indian Defence industry had joined hands with a number of world class multinationals for production of various defence equipment, he said.

Besides forming a joint venture between world famous French aircraft engine manufacturer Stigma and the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for production of engine for indigenous defence aircraft, the Defence Secretary said a number of similar joint ventures had also been made between India and its foreign partners in a number of other defence sectors, but refused to elaborate.

About further development of defence infrastructures in the Northeast in tune with the government's Look East Policy, Mr Dutt said as part of the multi-million rupee programme a number of major roads were being constructed in the North East to improve the surface connectivity with a number of neighbouring countries like China and Myanmar.

Mr Dutt announced that a number of border roads including the one between India and China through the Nathula pass would be opened in the coming months, but refused to shed any further light on the exact locations or dates of opening any more border passes.

''You must appreciate that because of defence guidelines we cannot divulge such things in public and to the media'', the Defence Secretary told UNI.

About the quantum of defence production being handed over to the private sector, Mr Dutt said as much as 48 per cent of Indian defence equipment were now being produced indigenously and majority of them were coming from the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

''The SMEs were now playing the most vital role in the overall production of the country's defence sector. Having realised their huge potential the Defence Ministry had now decided to further promote the role of the SMEs in the defence production capabilities and had increased the annual budget for them,'' Mr Dutt said.

However, Mr Dutt regretted that the country is still dependent on foreign producers for the production of sophisticated defence equipment and hoped that before the end of the next decade the situation would reverse.

UNI ABA KK SC HS1810

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