India’s defence exports reached their highest level in 2021-22, with the figure hitting ₹13,000-crore mark, a senior defence ministry official said on Friday, an outcome of the government’s policies to boost the export of military hardware to friendly foreign countries.
Additional secretary defence production Sanjay Jaju said 70% contribution to the exports during the financial year 2021-22 came from the private sector while the public sector accounted for the remaining 30%. His comments came during a briefing on a forthcoming defence ministry seminar on Artificial Intelligence in Defence on July 11.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh will inaugurate the seminar at which 75 newly-developed AI products and technologies with applications in defence will be launched as part of the celebrations to mark 75 years of India’s Independence, and to promote ‘Aatmanirbharta’ (self-reliance) in the defence manufacturing sector, defence secretary Ajay Kumar said.
India’s defence exports recorded nearly a six-fold increase between 2017 and 2021, shooting up from ₹1,520 crore to ₹8,435 crore during that period, according to defence ministry data.
Military hardware being exported by India include missiles, the advanced light helicopter, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, surveillance systems and a variety of radars, officials said.
In January, India’s BrahMos Aerospace and the Philippines signed a deal worth almost $375 million for the Philippine Marines to acquire three batteries of the BrahMos cruise missile, a shot in the arm for New Delhi’s efforts to emerge as an exporter of major defence hardware.
The military hardware that holds export potential includes the light combat aircraft, Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, Akash surface-to-air missile system, tanks, sonars and radars, as previously.
“India has a good strategy and action plan in place, backed by forward-looking policies, to ensure self-reliance in defence, and boost the country’s status as a net exporter of weapons in the coming years,” said military affairs expert Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd).
In December 2020, the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its go-ahead to the sale of Akash missile systems to friendly foreign countries. It also created a high-powered panel for swifter approvals to export of military hardware. India has set a target of clocking defence exports worth $5 billion by 2024.
In sharpened focus on getting a toehold in foreign markets, the government granted close to a thousand export authorisations last year, nearly four times the number approved five years before that, and cut down the time for such approvals by a third between 2017 and 2021.
Also, India has imposed a phased import ban on 310 different weapons and systems during the last two years. These weapons and platforms will be indigenised in phases over the next five to six years.
In April, the defence ministry said it had exceeded its target for indigenous defence purchases in 2021-22 indicating a major boost to the country’s push towards self-reliance.
The defence ministry earmarked 64% of the capital acquisition budget for the domestic industry in 2021-22 but it was able to “overachieve this target” and local military purchases accounted for 65.5% of the capital budget, according to data from the defence ministry.
The total capital expenditure for 2021-22 stood at ₹1,14,910 crore, of which ₹75,140 crore was spent on local weapons and systems.