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PM's address on the occasion of National Technology day organized by the DRDO

New Delhi
May 17, 2005

“I am indeed very happy to be in your midst to participate in a function which marks the National Technology Day. This is an occasion to recognize excellence in science and technology of the defence and security of our motherland. We are proud of the contributions made by our scientists and engineers who work or have been working for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Through individual brilliance and outstanding team work they have come up with products of great scientific and technological distinction, often achieved against considerable odds. I congratulate the winners of the award today, for their efforts in the service of our nation. I convey to all of them my admiration, as well as, the gratitude of our nation, for their commitment to excellence and relevance in R&D in the defence field.

India is a country of great complexity, great diversity, and by international standards we are a poor country. And, therefore, it goes without saying, that they must make use of all the brainpower that we have in our country to, at times, save on capital and equipment.

When I was a student at the University of Cambridge, some 50 years ago, I heard a story which relates to the very famous Russian Nuclear Scientist Kapitza, who was working at that time, in the early 20s, in the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, meanwhile revolution took place in Russia and when Kapitza went home, he was imprisoned. He was taken before Stalin and he asked Stalin angrily why I am kept here? What am I supposed to do? Here is a country which does not provide any laboratory facilities. There is great shortage of equipment for me to function as a scientist and, although it is no longer fashionable to quote Stalin these days, Stalin did say a remarkable thing. He said ‘my dear young man, we are short of money, and that’s why we need to use our brains more effectively’. So R&D in our country, has to, at times, substitute for capital and what I have seen today gives me confidence, that we have in our country men and women of great commitment combining highest standards of excellence and social relevance working in our defence laboratories. I congratulate, Dr. Natarajan and all his colleagues for their continued commitment to the quest of excellence in research in the field of defence. 

In the last five decades, DRDO has made its mark in diverse fields, these range from the development of advanced missiles, our Main Battle-Tank, our Light Combat Aircraft to the country’s strategic deterrence capabilities. A number of the products developed by DRDO, have also found commercial use in the civilian sectors of our economy. At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen, we must seek to meet the requirements of the coming decades and accordingly, DRDO must redefine its approaches and restructure its capabilities. Our defence sector must now respond to a wide range of threat assessment including, both conventional threats as well as newer non-conventional challenges. 

India is committed to building an environment of cooperative and productive relations with all nations, more so with our neighbours. We have no desire to engage in any arms race, as that would divert vitally needed resources away from the basic developmental purposes. At the same time, there is need to develop comprehensive military capabilities to deter any effort directed against our national interests. The maintenance of a credible defence posture is, of course, greatly dependent on equipping our armed forces with high technology-weapon systems, appropriate to our military doctrine and strategies. The higher the indigenous content of our weapon system the greater our confidence that the autonomy of national decision making will not be affected in the period of crisis. A self-reliant military complex, is therefore, essential for the country to maintain our strategic autonomy. Consequently, it is essential, that technologies must develop to keep pace with a rapid evolution of military doctrines and strategies. Recent conflicts show that countries can ill afford to lag behind the revolution in military affairs. As a matter of national priority, therefore, we must stay ahead of the curve. 

our experience of the past five decades provides valuable lessons in reducing the gap between design and development of a weapon system and its actual induction and deployment with our defence services. We can ill-afford continued delays in project implementation, both in terms of impact time and cost overruns. Delays not only affect the national exchequer, they can also seriously undermine the confidence of the defence services if a weapon system is practically obsolete by the time of its induction. Most importantly, delays also limit our strategic options. Prior planning reduces costs, avoids duplication, cuts down redundancy and therefore, releases resources for equipments and systems of long term significance. It is unfortunate, that in recent years there have been delays in equipment reaching our Services even while funds allocated for procurement were under-utilised. Our government has taken corrective steps in this regard. Long term defence procurement planning, must, therefore, identify the optimal mix between requirements of indigenous production and external procurement. We must concentrate our indigenous efforts on critical technologies of strategic value for which in most cases we have no option, but rely on our own resources. At the same time, we must explore fully what is available through external sources, through technology transfers or through co-production, both for use in the Indian market or for third country exports. Co-production in India, may provide answer to the persistent problems of reliability of spares and product support for defence services. It also enables us to move beyond buyer-seller relationship, to joint production and development of technologies. Brahmos supersonic cruise missile is an example of one such successful joint venture between Russia and India. I compliment those involved in this venture. 

Our endeavour must be meet the twin imperatives of technological relevance and cost effective delivery. Given the expansion of our private sector, both in technical and financial terms, we are at the threshold of a future in which the private sector contributes to the national cause of high technology defence. There is need for a new institutional framework to involve the private sector, to ensure continuous dialogue as well as to provide incentives for risk taking. We should encourage substantial investment in production capabilities and also in defence related R&Ds.

It is part of our development strategy to leverage our strong human resource base to make India the country of choice for research and development activities worldwide. Our government is working to devise new ways to motivate the best and the brightest talents available in our country to serve the national effort in all areas of human endeavour. I emphasise the need for the maximum possible use of our own talent and capabilities because bilateral and multilateral technology denial regimes targeting India still remain by and large in place. Such regimes are contrary to the logic of globalisation and are increasingly an anachronism from the past. Therefore, we must continue to refine our capabilities to stay abreast of the cutting edge of knowledge and human endeavour. 

In this context, I would like reiterate that India is conscious of its responsibilities deriving from the possession of advanced technologies both civilian and strategic. We are determined to ensure that these are not used for prohibited activities. We have illustrated our commitments to these responsibilities through our Parliament passing last week the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery System Prohibition of Unlawful Activities Bill. This bill compares favourably with the best global standards on non-proliferation India will not be, and I repeat, will not be a source of proliferation of sensitive technologies. We will adopt the most stringent measures to safeguard and secure the technologies that we possess, or those that we acquire through international collaboration. This bill also highlights our unblemished non-proliferation record and our abiding commitment to non-proliferation principles. The strict regulation of external transfers and tight control to prevent internal leakages should give confidence to the international suppliers of high technology items that their supplies will remain fully secure with us. We see no reason for non proliferation concerns to be a barrier to high technology trade and commerce with our country. Our message to the international community is, therefore, is loud and clear – India is willing to shoulder its share of international obligation as partner against proliferation provided our legitimate interests are safeguarded. In the defence field and the nuclear field, our strategic programmes are indigenous and not dependent on external sources of support. Nor can they be the subject of externally imposed constraints. Within these parameters, India is prepared for the broadest possible engagement with the International non-proliferation regime. 

I am confident that the DRDO as a centre of national excellence will rise to the challenges of the future with confidence and determination. Our nation is truly proud of your achievements and I have every confidence that you will continue to live up to our nation’s expectations. You can count on the support of our government and indeed of the entire Indian people in this national endeavour. I wish the DRDO family all good luck. And I convey to them my very best wishes. Today’s award winners, in particular, to them I say well done in the service of our nation. But we cannot be satisfied with the status-quo let us move on to new frontiers of knowledge, in the field of science and technology. Our government will be proud to be your partner in this vital national task.”