Eastern Eye (UK)
India sets high export targets as Delhi seeks defence ‘partners’
EUROPEAN AND US MANUFACTURERS EYE ORDERS AT BIGGEST-EVER BANGALORE AIR SHOW
INDIA’S prime minister Narendra Modi on Monday (13) set out ambitions to more than triple annual defence exports to $5 billion (£4.1bn) over the next two years, as arms firms flocked to a major air show for a slice of the nation’s massive import budget.
The country is looking to sign defence deals worth `750bn (£7.5bn) at the biennial five-day Aero India event, its biggest ever. It comes as its airlines try to complete jetliner purchases to meet civilian demand and press global aircraft manufacturers to produce more locally, mainly through partnerships.
India has been one of the world’s biggest importers of defence equipment for decades, but it has punched below its weight in the global arms export market. But New Delhi’s export ambitions are a sign of its growing clout as it uses the leverage of huge imports to attract investment in its domestic industry.
“Today, India is not just a market for defence companies, it is also a potential defence partner,” Modi said in a speech at the show in Bangalore. “I call on India’s private sector to invest more and more in the country’s defence sector.”
India exports defence products to 75 countries, he added.
Past Indian exports include Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Dhruv helicopters to the Philippines, Mauritius and Ecuador, and Russia-India venture BrahMos Aerospace’s supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines. HAL has also offered its Tejas light fighter jet for sale to Malaysia.
India has also exported other items such as offshore patrol vessels, coastal surveillance systems, avionics, chaff rocket launchers and spares for radars.
The air show aims to promote exports of indigenous air platforms such as Tejas, Dhruv, HTT-40 training aircraft, Dornier light utility helicopter and the light combat helicopter.
India is also keen for smaller domestic companies and start-ups to make parts for large defence products globally, as well as to attract foreign investment for joint product development and production.
However, defence experts were circumspect about India’s ambition.
“From just a 0.2 per cent share in global arms exports, becoming a major exporter is a long haul,” said Amit Cowshish, a former financial advisor in the defence ministry, and a former distinguished fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.
“Some of the biggest importing countries, even if they are willing, will find it difficult to withstand pressures from Europe and the US to consider buying whatever little we have to offer by way of major equipment and platforms,” Cowshish said.
At the Aero India event, held at the Air Force Station of Yelahanka near Bangalore, visitors cheered aerobatic displays by aircraft including Tejas and Russianmade Sukhoi 30 fighter jets.
Sharing borders with China and Pakistan,
India’s largely Soviet-era air force fleet is in desperate need of modernising. Suppliers in the EU and the
US have been lobbying for a bigger share of the arms market, which has been dominated so far by Russia.
The war in Ukraine has made it imperative for India to diversify its supply base, amid fears of possible Russian supply disruption and Western pressure on New
Delhi to limit ties with Moscow as the conflict nears its first anniversary.
Exhibitors at the show include Airbus, Boeing Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Israel Aerospace Industry, BrahMos, SAAB, Rolls Royce, Larsen & Toubro, HAL and Bharat Electronics Ltd.