Bengaluru: Looking to raise its defence manufacturing base from $11 billion to $25 billion by 2025, India has pitched itself as a defence partner to countries in the Indian Ocean Region and others at the Aero India 2021, which came to an end Friday.
Showcasing utility and light combat helicopters to fighters and missiles, besides radars, India is hoping to move away from being one of the world’s biggest importers of weapons to being an exporter.
Addressing the audience at Aero India on the last day in Bengaluru, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said during the period 2015-2020, India’s defence exports grew from Rs 2,000 crore to Rs 9,000 crore.
“It is also important to note that a vast majority of our defence exports are being spearheaded by the private sector,” he said.
The minister said a robust domestic manufacturing base relates directly to the potential for defence exports. “We plan to move from a $11 billion defence base to $25 billion by 2025. Of this, we further intend to create an export component of $5 billion,” he said.
Singh, who chaired the first ever Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers Conclave in Bengaluru Thursday, said the aerospace sector has an important role to play, if India has to reach its targets of domestic defence production of $25 billion and exports of $5 billion by 2025.
The IOR focus
One of the highlights of Aero India 2021 was the signing of the contract for 83 light combat aircraft Tejas.
The government is keen to offer the Tejas for export to various countries, with a particular focus on the Indian Ocean Region, and plans to open up offices of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in some nations.
“Our strategic interests lie in the Indian Ocean Region. This is where we are focusing. We are not only looking at being the preferred security partner but also a defence partner by which we can equip them with systems that are affordable and hi-tech,” a senior official in the Defence Ministry said on condition of anonymity.
According to defence ministry calculations, the aero components sector is set to grow from Rs 30,000 crore today to Rs 60,000 crore by 2024.
Singh explained the government aims at bringing down defence imports by at least $2 billion by 2022. “Between 2016 and 2019, 138 proposals worth over $37 billion for domestic manufacturing have been approved,” he said.
From Iran to Madagascar, nearly 50 countries have participated in the air show which was the first to be held in the world since the Covid pandemic.
“The fact that so many countries sent either their Defence Ministers, service chiefs or representatives, clearly shows the interest that these countries have in what India has to offer,” another source in the defence ministry said, adding that the government will follow this up in a coherent manner and ensure that mechanisms are in place.
A range of indigenous products were the central focus of the aero show. This included the Akash air defence system that has recently been approved by a cabinet committee for exports, besides the BrahMos missile system.
The HAL’s focus was the rotary wing platform that is also available for exports, and the armed versions of the Advanced Light Helicopter and the under-development Light Utilitarian chopper.
A number of Indian private firms and start-ups showcased products ranging from small arms to drones and bullet proof jackets.
The government has already created a country-wise profile to understand what each nation needs and how Indian products can be pushed.