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Committed to defending borders: PM 

Chennai, April 12

Even as India ramps up its defence manufacturing capability and spends close to 12 per cent of its Annual Budget on the military, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said “our commitment to peace is as strong as the commitment to protect our people and territory”.Inaugurating Defence Expo 2018 here,  the PM  listed his government’s efforts in making the country a hub of defence-manufacturing and bolstering the armed forces. Invoking Kautilya, who wrote  ‘Arthashastra’ more than 2000 years ago, he said “the king or the ruler must protect his people, however, peace is preferable to war.“India’s defence preparedness is guided by these thoughts. Our commitment to peace is as strong as to protect our people and territory. For this we are ready to take all steps to equip our armed forces.” India had never coveted the territory of another nation, he stressed.The comments are significant as they come amid increasing Chinese activities along the nearly 4,000-km-long border with India, as well as Beijing’s efforts to expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. “We have never desired anyone’s territory… rather than winning countries through wars, India has believed in winning hearts,” he said.With global military aviation companies lining up for the USD 15-billion project to make fighter jets in India, the PM said India would not ‘take a decade’ to decide on the project, an obvious dig at the earlier UPA government. The assurance comes within a week of a new tender to get 110 fighter jets for the IAF. Foreign industry has been skeptical that the fresh tender could be a re-run of the scrapped tender to buy 126 fighter jets. The process started in 2004 was scrapped in 2015 after years of trials, discussion and cost negotiation.“Issues (military ones) which should have been long addressed are being resolved now. We have not only taken bold action to meet immediate requirement (purchase of 36 Rafale jets), we have started a new process for 110 jets. We will not spend 10 years without  any tangible outcomes.”As per the tender floated by the IAF, deliveries are expected to commence within three years of signing the contract.  Signing the contract, if all goes well,   could take about two years from now.

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