India’s Push to Become a Major Defense Exporter

The road from being a defense importer to become a defense exporter will not be easy, but India is slowly moving toward that direction.

India has always been a defense importer in the world market. But now this trajectory seems changing as India is pacing toward defense exports. Data shows India’s commendable growth in arms export. According to the government data India’s military export was worth 1,521 Crore Rs in 2016-17, whereas in 2022-2023 the military export has risen to 15,920 Crore Rs. That is almost a 10-fold jump in the export.

For India, it is a very encouraging number to boost its defense spending as well. India’s defense gets an allocation of Rs 5.94 lakh crore in the 2023-24 Budget, which is 13% more than the allocation of last year. India has set a target of reaching $5 billion annually in defense export by 2025. And this shows India’s tremendous effort to boost its arms export and India’s exponential rise. India can become a defense production hub and the government will put all its efforts into making this possible said Indian PM Narendra Modi.

According to some reports, India will send more Attaches to West Asian and African nations. The very purpose of this decision is to promote Indian-origin weapons and arms equipment in these countries. As both regions are important defense markets for India.

For the time being India’s defense exports goes to more than 80 countries. Last year the Philippines bought an Indian original BrahMos missile worth $375 million, and that was India’s first major defense export. According to one report from 2020 Nine countries from Africa and Southeast Asia have shown interest in buying a DRDO-developed Akash air defense missile system.

Countries like Argentina and Egypt have shown their keenness in India’s Light Combat Aircraft famously known as Tejas fighter jet. Both countries are in discussion with India for purchasing jets. India is even offering the transfer of defense technology and setting up of local production units to Egypt. Southeast Asian nation has been showing their greater interest in Indian defense items due to a variety of reasons. First, Indian defense equipment is affordable with all their effectiveness as other buying weapons from Western countries seems costlier. Second, amid increasing Chinese aggression they want reliable defense exporters, and India seems the best option for this purpose for these countries.

Among overall defense export, approximately 70% comes from India’s private sector. Now Indian private sector wants to go beyond the parts manufacturing business to sophisticated weapons like fighter jets and missile systems.

Challenges for India

India is not the only player in this arms bazaar race, countries like South Korea are also significant players in this market. There is huge competition in the defense market. Last year India lost a fighter jet deal from Malaysia to South Korea as Malaysia decided to go for a South Korean FA-50 fighter jet instead of the Indian original Tejas fighter jet. So losing deals like this can create a hurdle for India. So India needs to develop more specific and sophisticated weapons to get leverage over other players.

India is entering into the field which is largely dominated by Western developed countries like the USA, France, and Russia, etc. and if India wants to join this club it has to increase its spending on research and innovation. There is still room for lots of development and improvements. Through proper policy initiative and action with the combined effort of the private and public sectors, India can become a significant exporter in the defense market.
This continuous rise of defense export is not only helping India to become a major arms exporter but also boosting India’s vision of Self-reliance and Made in India initiative.

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