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Address by External Affairs Minister at the Inaugural session of the International Seminar on "Aerospace Power in tomorrow's world"

New Delhi
February 4, 2007

1. At the outset, let me congratulate the Indian Air Force on its platinum jubilee celebrations. The IAF has maintained very high standards of professionalism and provided dedicated service to the nation for the past 75 years. The nation acknowledges the vital role played by the IAF both during peace and war. The professionalism displayed by the Indian Air Warriors has been widely appreciated during various international exercises and in UN Peace Keeping Operations. Our aircraft have crossed different continents and participated with distinction in training exercises in France, South Africa, Singapore and the United States. Indeed, these air warriors have put India on the global map.

2. Ladies and Gentlemen, concern for the security of a nation is inherent in the very concept of a nation-state. National security implies the creation of national and international political conditions favourable to the protection and furtherance of vital national interests. The core strength of a nation lies in its ability to defend itself and maintain its freedom to employ elements of its national power to further its vital interests. Traditionally, national security has implied maintaining territorial integrity and internal cohesion. However, modern security concerns transcend mere physical security. They encompass all factors that may impinge upon the socio-economic development, global competitiveness or the overall growth of a nation, including areas such as environment, energy, food and water security. Since some or most of these aspects are in play at all times, a nation needs to constantly exercise national power to condition its environment, internal or external, to nurture its interests.

3. While conventional wisdom dictates that economic and military power are the determinants of international power projection, today the role of soft power, as an important adjunct, can hardly be overrated. A brief look at international power structures reveals that nations that wield influence are those that possess significant economic and military power. However, history, even recent history, shows that such power can be wielded effectively only when enabled by soft power. Soft power shapes perceptions of hard military power, obviates its use and endows it with legitimacy when the use becomes inevitable.

4. India’s strategic perspective has been shaped by the continental and maritime character of its geography. India’s peninsular location at the base of continental Asia astride the Indian Ocean places it at a vantage point in relation to the maritime trade that takes place through this ocean. We have a strong stake in the security and stability of these waters, which is linked to energy security, since a very large percentage of Asian oil and gas supplies are shipped through the Indian Ocean. I am pleased to note that the Indian Air Force has the means and the capability to operate in areas away from our shores, if the need ever arises, and is playing its role along side the Indian Navy in ensuring the security of these waters.

5. Ladies and Gentlemen, the international scenario has been undergoing unprecedented changes. Technology and mass media have diminished the physical and psychological distance between nations. Interdependence is a striking factor of today’s world. The unceasing stream of mutual influences and cooperative trade has contributed to the making of a new global arena of shared diversity. Non-state actors have increasingly begun to tread on the geopolitical space of nation states. The threat of inter state conflict has receded but there has been no let up in conflict and new non-traditional threats to security have emerged, which transcend borders and which cannot be tackled by nations acting alone. This makes it necessary to isolate factors that cause international insecurity and to work in a cooperative manner to make our societies safer and more secure. As the traditional concepts of military use are yielding to more comprehensive notions of security, we now need to elaborate international structures that facilitate tackling the global character of these non-traditional threats.

6. In recent years, the effects of terrorism have been felt all over the world. It is no longer possible to tackle this scourge in a compartmentalized manner. We are witness to the alarming growth of new linkages amongst terrorist and radical groups. While it took the tragic events of September 11 to focus the world’s attention on the threat posed by global terrorism, India has had experience of this kind of terror for longer. In today’s interdependent world if we have to grow together, we need to work together to eliminate terror in its entirety. A judicious mix of hard and soft power is called for as we target the perpetrators of these crimes and their sponsors and as we work to dent their messages of violence, hate and extremism.

7. Since India commenced economic liberalization in the early 1990’s our economy is growing at a rapid pace. The high economic growth rates have a natural fall out on energy consumption. India is currently the sixth largest energy consumer in the world and our requirement would increase over the years. Our energy security vision now takes in countries in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and South East Asia. The understanding on civilian nuclear energy with the United States also flows from this strategic view of our future energy needs and their global impact.

8. Another area of significant interest today is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, including the possibility of their falling into the hands of non-state actors. A new thinking is called for in the light of recent developments and the damage wrought by clandestine proliferation rings. India has an impeccable record on non-proliferation, a long standing commitment to disarmament and is ready to shoulder its share of responsibility in the pursuit of the objective of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

9. In the light of both traditional and new challenges, and in the backdrop of the significant enhancement of military capabilities across the globe, India is also alive to the needs of its armed forces and the requirement to maintain significant defence and deterrence capabilities. Our annual defence budget is nearly US $ 20 billion in absolute terms or a modest 2.27% of our GDP. Aerospace power is an increasingly important area for allocations. IAF’s existing aircraft and helicopter fleets are being upgraded and AWACS, Air to Air refuellers, Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, Advanced Light Helicopters and transportable radars being procured. This should considerably enhance IAF’s potential and reach, thereby permitting it to undertake its national and international responsibilities. We are also devoting resources to air defence, as a part of which we are validating various technologies. This fits in well with the defensive nature of our doctrine of credible minimum deterrence and our commitment to strategic technological autonomy.

10. I note that in your next session you are going to discuss the transition from air power to aerospace power – what you have chosen to call the other RMA. Following the Revolution in Military Affairs, there is a growing focus on space-based assets to support a variety of military force multipliers. There is an increasing tendency as well to view space-based assets as critical national infrastructure to be protected or denied to potential adversaries. Satellites play an important role in intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, secure communication and delivering accurate firepower on the ground at large distances. Recent developments show that we are treading a thin line between current defence related uses of space and its actual weaponisation. While the focus on aerospace power is natural in today’s circumstances, it is in our common interest to preserve outer space as a sanctuary from weapons and guard it as the common, peaceful heritage of mankind.

11. India has invested heavily in the peaceful uses of space and has a well-diversified and growing civilian space programme that answers to our development needs in education, telecommunications, remote sensing, management of natural resources and other areas. The recent successful launch of multiple satellites and recovery of a re-entry capsule are illustrations of the depth and diversity of this programme. 

We are also playing an active role in discussions in Vienna and elsewhere on the cooperative use of outer space including through the deployment of space based disaster management capabilities. There are a number of space faring nations today and many more, especially developing countries, wish to reap the benefits of the peaceful applications of space in the future. The security and safety of assets in outer space is of crucial importance for global economic and social development. We call upon all states to redouble efforts to strengthen the international legal regime for the peaceful uses of outer space.

12. As I mentioned before interdependence is the defining characteristic of our times. The prospect of conflict between the major powers is remote, our economies and societies are more than ever intertwined and the need for cooperative and democratic arrangements to respond to common challenges has never been more keenly felt. With its abiding civilizational heritage and its growing economic and technological capabilities, India is ready to contribute significantly to the elaboration of cooperative responses to shared challenges. We are conscious that the choices we make have the potential to effect global outcomes on a range of issues and are therefore ready to shoulder our share of responsibility for the promotion of global peace and security. The subject of your discussions, aerospace power, can play a crucial role in the elaboration and employment of collaborative structures that tackle threats to our common wellbeing. Aerospace capabilities of persistent surveillance and rapid response enable it tackle diverse threats ranging from non-state actors to natural disasters. Cooperative partnerships between nations and between civil and military forces could allow us to cost effectively develop and deploy emerging aerospace technologies for the benefit of all humanity.

13. With these words, I welcome all the Air Chiefs from friendly foreign countries and wish them a very productive and engaging seminar. I hope you have a memorable stay in New Delhi.

Thank you.
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