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Top priority on defence infrastructure in northern sector: Arun Jaitley

Posted on Aug 15 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 14 : Pitching for speedy indigenisation in the defence sector, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday said the government was giving top priority to strengthening infrastructure in the northern sector and strengthening capabilities of the armed forces.

In his customary address to the armed forces on the eve of the 68th Independence Day, Jaitley said an independent and self-respecting nation cannot afford to remain dependent on imports for meeting the needs of its weapon systems and there was a need to modernise capabilites through sustained research and development.

Referring to the decision to hike foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence from 26 percent to 49 percent, he said the government was laying emphasis on opening some non-strategic, non-core areas to private industries and encouraging public-private partnerships.

He said the government was trying to further strengthen capabilities in the northern sector.

"We are attaching top priority to the strengthening of the infrastructure in this sector by building and upgrading border roads, strategic bridges and airfields.

"We are enhancing other capabilities along the land and sea borders. Steps are also being taken to modernise the army's infantry and artillery units so that they can easily work in a seamless and net-centric environment," he said.

Jaitley said he was aware of the hardships and agony of long separations of soldiers from their families when serving in forward and inhospitable high-altitude areas and the government was working on the Married Accommodation Project (MAP) to provide nearly two lakh units for married personnel near their places of posting.

He said the government has decided to establish the National War Memorial in Delhi and it was proposed to be built in the vicinity of India Gate.

Jaitley said extension of railway network in border areas was a way to facilitate quick mobilisation of troops and weapon systems and the government has allocated Rs.1,000 crore for developing railway systems in border areas.

He said the Indian Air Force was undergoing a revolutionary transformation through acquisition of new state-of-the-art fighters and transport aircraft and helicopters.

"These are expected to meet the challenges of 21st century air warfare," he said.

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