Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday set out ambitions to more than treble annual defence exports to $5 billion over the next two years, as arms firms flocked to Aero India for a slice of the nation’s massive import budget. “The country, which was the biggest defence importer for decades, is now exporting defence equipment to 75 countries of the world,” he said.
Modi said India’s defence exports have increased six times in the last five years and that it has crossed the figure of $1.5 billion in its exports. “Our target is that by 2024-25, we will increase this export figure from 1.5 billion to 5 billion dollars,” he said.
The five-day aerospace exhibition, considered the largest in Asia, is seeing the participation of over 700 Indian and foreign defence companies, besides delegates from around 100 countries, which included several defence ministers as well.
“You also know that defence is such an area in which technology, market and business are considered the most complicated...We consider this to be just a start,” Modi said.
The country is looking to sign defence deals worth Rs 75,000 crore ($9 billion) at Aero India, its biggest ever, as its airlines try to complete jetliner purchases to meet civilian demand and press global aircraft manufacturers to produce more locally, mainly through partnerships.
“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. “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 also wants smaller domestic firms and start-ups to make parts for large defence products globally, and attract foreign investment for joint product development and production.
Indian Air Force’s Tejas aircraft displays a manoeuvre on Monday
The tail of HAL’s fighter aircraft, at Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru | PTI photo