India will have to be self-reliant to become a regional power, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said this morning as he talked about the "key lessons" taught by the health crisis that has emerged due to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which has infected over 26,000 people in India, killed more than 800. "Discipline and patience" helped the defence services in checking the spreading of virus, General Rawat said, adding that the novel coronavirus has affected Army, Air Force and Navy in a "limited manner".
Shedding light on the lessons taught by the health crisis, General Bipin Rawat said: "There has been a major lesson for us. The way these scientists, medical agencies involved have come up with ideas to produce the equipment required in the country, which we were so far importing, has been amazing."
"In a short span of four to six weeks, we started manufacturing ventilators in the country. There are some key lessons for us in the defence services. We have been importing ammunition from abroad... but if this challenge is thrown to academia, we can make it in the country. The time has now come to be self-reliant. In times of crisis, countries will have to be self-dependent," he explained.
"If we are looking at becoming a regional power, India will have to support other nations. The manner in which the health industry has come forth, I am sure that the defence sector can come forward at the same pace," General Rawat asserted.
On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made similar remarks about self-reliance while addressing village chiefs through video conference. "Coronavirus has sent so many challenges our way, but we must always learn from the situation we are in in life. It has given us a lot to think about and taught about the way we act. It has made it absolutely clear that we have to depend only on ourselves for our survival," the Prime Minister said.
At this time when the nation is fighting COVID-19, the defence services "must operate beyond the mandate to support the people and government in whatever way we can," General Bipin Rawat said today.
"We have to first ensure that we remain safe from COVID-19 because if our own sailors, soldiers and airmen get affected by this virus, how are we going to support our people. That is why we have issued very strict directions on social distancing, wearing of masks and ensuring that people who require to be in quarantine remain in quarantine," the 62-year-old Chief of Defence Staff said.
On 26 naval officers getting coronavirus , he said: "The coronavirus outbreak has affected the Army, Air Force and Navy in a limited number. We have been quick to react. It's because of quick reaction that we have been able to control the spread." The chain of transmission began with one asymptomatic naval officer, he said, adding: "Patience and discipline helped the forces in checking the spread of virus".
Referring to the nationwide lockdown that began last month to break the chain of transmission, General Rawat said: "We do know when the country is under lockdown and people are told to stay indoors, they tend to become impatient. This is not the time to be impatient. Patience is very important to ensure that we remain disciplined. Maintaining discipline in armed forces is not very difficult as we are accustomed to be in discipline but to maintain patience is the need of the hour."
(With inputs from ANI)