Gandhinagar: India is looking at its highest-ever defence exports this fiscal with sales touching Rs 8,000 crore in the first six months, as the Narendra Modi government tries to shed its import dependence in the critical sector.
“We have managed to do defence exports worth Rs 8,000 crore this year and we will surpass what we did last year,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on the sidelines of the DefExpo 2022, meant exclusively for Indian companies or the Indian arm of foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer, that kicked off in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar Tuesday.
India’s defence exports had touched a record Rs 13,000 crore in the 2021-2022 fiscal, which was nearly eight times of what it was in 2014.
In 2020, the Narendra Modi government had set a target of Rs 35,000 crore ($5 billion) export in aerospace, and defence goods and services for the next five years. This is part of the turnover of Rs 1.75 lakh crore ($ 25 billion) in defence manufacturing by 2025 that the government is aiming to achieve.
“It has been a transformative journey from being the biggest importer of defence to now being an exporter. India is now among the top 25 defence exporters in the world,” Singh said, while addressing the media.
75 countries participating
Exports are one of the prime objectives for the five-day DefExpo, during which two separate conclaves — India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD) and Indian Ocean Region plus (IOR+) — will be held.
More than 53 African countries have been invited for IADD and 44 for the IOR+ conclave which will be chaired by Singh.
IADD and IOR+ Conclave will be two very important events for promoting peace, security, prosperity and defence cooperation throughout the region and establishing new defence and industrial partnerships, Singh said.
Spread over one lakh square metres (sqm) (the previous edition was held over 76,000 sqm) and with a record registration of 1,340 companies, DefExpo 2022 is the biggest defence exhibition till date.
At least 75 countries will be participating in the exhibition.
Defence Ministry officials said that 451 partnerships in terms of MoUs, transfer of technology agreements and product launches, are expected during DefExpo 2022, which is almost double than the last edition.
Sources in the defence establishment also said that India has identified indigenous small arms, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, weapons locating radars, Tejas fighter aircraft, light combat helicopters and BrahMos missiles as the big defence potential items besides unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance.
While India has traditionally stayed away from pushing defence exports, the Modi government sees this as a tool to push a bigger defence eco-system in the country.
“Exports are the only way. Indian armed forces can only buy a limited number. For companies to invest and manufacture, they will need a bigger market than just India’s and hence the government is trying to push exports,” a source explained.
Amidst the ongoing tensions with its rival Azerbaijan, Armenia entered into a government-to-government contract with India last month for the procurement of the Pinaka systems besides rockets and ammunition.
India had also struck a deal earlier this year for the BrahMos missiles with the Philippines and is looking at a possible sale of Tejas to Egypt and Malaysia.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)