While India has considerably reduced its defense imports and is trying to become more self-sufficient in this regard, the government is also trying to make India a major Defense goods exporter.
Recently, India has been ranked in the world’s top 25 defense goods exporters by SIPRI, a Stockholm based think-tank. Through this article we will look into India’s Defense Exports, and some major developments made by the government.
The Government of India is eyeing to achieve the export target of about ₹35,000 crore in aerospace and defense goods and services by 2025. While India is known for its competence and its capability to provide low-cost, high-quality production of defence goods, the target is an ambitious one, and the government is trying to achieve it the best it can.
Recently, the Philippines government approved a contract worth 374 million dollars with BrahMos Aerospace limited, an Indo-Russian joint venture aimed at increasing defense exports. The Philippines government was interested in the supersonic cruise missile system for quite a while, but the deal could not move ahead because of the pandemic.
With this development, BrahMos will successfully mark India’s first major export order. Mr. Lorenza, the Secretary of Central Defense of Philippines said on social media, “As Head of Procuring Entity (HOPE), I recently signed the Notice of Award for the Philippine Navy shore-based anti-ship missile acquisition project. Negotiated with the Government of India, it includes the delivery of three batteries, training for operators, and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.”
Developed by BrahMos Aerospace Limited, the cruise missiles can be launched from land, sea, sub-sea, and air against surface and sea-based targets, and has been inducted into the Indian armed forces long ago. The system will be most likely equipped by the coastal defense regiment of the Philippines marines.
With this development, BrahMos Aerospace limited has also moved into talks with several other nations interested in buying its cruise missile system, which is gaining popularity by the second. According to defense officials, discussions with Indonesia are at an advanced stage, and a deal is most likely to be signed in the coming months. Thailand is also eyeing BrahMos’s cruise missile system, and has joined the negotiations.
These ASEAN countries are looking to strengthen their naval arsenal as most of these are in conflict with China in the South China Sea, while India is countering China’s expansion in the India Ocean Region, especially in its ‘sphere of influence’.
In 2019, after an air show display of India’s light-weight fighter jet in Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in the ASEAN nation Malaysia, the RMAF (the Air Force of Malaysia) had expressed its interest in buying the fighter jets from India. Developed by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), the aircraft is said to be the world’s lightest supersonic aircraft.
Later, Malaysia had released a tender, looking for 36 low-cost lightweight fighter aircraft for its Air Force. As of now, the Malaysian government has received 6 bids in total, out of which, two bids – one by India and the other one by Turkey – seem to be in close competition to win the contract.
Turkey’s Hurjet and India’s Tejas LCA are close competitors, but according reports, India’s Tejas might make the cut as the proposal sent from HAL is expected to meet all the parameters set by Malaysia, and is low cost.
Talking about the price of LCA Tejas, HAL’s CMD R Madhavan had said, “Per aircraft is pegged at a vanilla price of just Rs 309 crore. However, the export version of the aircraft is going to be different from those being produced for the Indian Air Force.” The export version of this aircraft is also globally the cheapest fighter jet available.
When the HAL’s Tejas gets exported, it will give a huge boost to India’s defense export programme, and it will also bring some much needed validation and recognition to HAL, and its unique line of fighter jets.
The Modi government has been trying to step up India’s defense exports, and have been fairly successful in it. In an answer to a question raised in the parliament, the Ministry of Defense said India exported defense equipment worth ₹8,434.84 crore in 2020-21 compared to ₹1,940.64 crore in 2014-15.
The government’s policy to increase India’s defense exports included rescinding a section of the Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment and Technologies (SCOMET) list that will allow easier exports, opening of an online portal for receiving and processing export authorization permission, allowing the legitimate export of parts and components of small arms and body armor for civil use after prior consultation with the foreign ministry, and delegating powers to defense public sector units to explore opportunities for export and participation in global tenders.
According to the ministry, some of the other measures are the creation of a separate office in the department of defense production to coordinate and follow up on export related action, including enquiries received from various countries, sharing leads with private and public sector companies, and facilitating exports and a scheme to provide financial support to defense attaches for taking up actions for promoting exports of India-made defense products both of public and private sector in the countries to which they are attached.
A very important point that the current Prime Minister made was that India has to stop relying on imports for its defense requirements. He had also urged Indian companies to take up manufacturing of defense equipment and goods to reduce India’s dependency on foreign goods and services. The government has also modified a 2016 Defence procurement policy into the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.
The Defence Ministry had responded to a question in the parliament by saying, “In order to promote indigenous design and development of defence equipment, the ‘Buy Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured’ category has been accorded top most priority for procurement of capital equipment."
“The Ministry of Defence has notified two ‘positive indigenization lists’ of a total of 209 items for which there would be an embargo on import beyond the timeline indicated against them. This is a big step towards self-reliance in defence," the minstry added.
This would offer a great opportunity to the Indian defence industry to manufacture these items using their own design and development capabilities to meet the requirements of the armed forces.
The government’s strategy to push domestic production of defense goods and services over defense imports is a strong initiative as it will make India self-reliant. At the same time, it will increase employment as the production of these goods and equipment will require a lot of workforce.
It is important for India to be self-reliant for defense goods for its security purposes also. All in all, India’s defense exports will grow in the near future if the government plans on executing its plans and strategies in a proper and functional way.