New Delhi: Backing the modernisation of defence forces, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday underlined his commitment to preserving India`s strategic autonomy and stressed that it is too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional arrangement.
Commending the armed forces for their contribution to the country`s security, the prime minister said: "Our Armed Forces deserve the best and I wish to assure you that the government will make every effort to ensure this. No country can make progress without ensuring its security and territorial integrity."
Manmohan Singh also strongly endorsed the growing demand for the much-needed modernisation of the defence forces. "As our economy grows and our technological capabilities expand, we must set higher standards for the modernisation of our defence forces," he said.
"It is not enough for us to keep pace with change. When it comes to defence capability, we must be ahead of the technology curve," he stressed.
Defence modernisation, the Prime Minister said, must involve the full chain starting with updating war fighting doctrines to meet new threats to our security, preparation of appropriate staff quality requirements and creating a broad-based production and delivery infrastructure on the ground.
Alluding to a shift of economic and political power to Asia, he also said that "some of our toughest challenges lie in the immediate neighbourhood", and underlined that the country cannot "realise growth ambitions unless we ensure peace and stability in South Asia".
"We have always prided ourselves on preserving our strategic autonomy, and this is an article of faith for us," Singh told the Combined Commanders` Conference in the capital.
"India is too large a country to be boxed into any alliance or regional or sub-regional arrangements, whether trade, economic or political," he said.
Putting India`s economic transformation at the heart of the country`s foreign policy and strategic orientation, Singh said in order to sustain 9 to 10 percent growth rate and to modernize its infrastructure, India needs to "maintain healthy relations with all major powers".
Describing "Naxalism (Maoism)" as "a serious challenge to India`s internal security", he said combating it was a "collective task involving the centre and the states". "At the same time, we have to accelerate our development efforts in the Naxal-affected areas and make our administrative machinery more sensitive and responsive to local concerns," he said.
Placing India`s growth story in the larger global context, the Prime Minister said although the Indian economy has weathered the global economic crisis of 2008 better than most of the large economies of the world, there is little room for complacency.
"We have the advantage of a continental-sized economy and a large internal market, but our challenge will be to ensure that our growth is balanced across all regions and reaches all sections of our society," he said.
"In global terms, we are witnessing a shift of economic and political power to Asia," he said, while calling for greater attention to the Asia-Pacific region, including South East Asia. "There is a palpable desire on the part of the countries of this region to enhance cooperation with us which we must reciprocate," he said ahead of the India-ASEAN summit next month.
To realise India`s growth targets, the country must diversify its energy options. "It is in this context that we need to operationalise our nuclear energy option, which holds great promise and is a necessity," he said.