Defence exports log tenfold jump since 2016, nearly ₹16k-cr
Making its presence felt in the highly competitive global defence market, India exported military hardware worth ₹15,920 crore in financial year 2022-23, the highest ever and a notable tenfold increase since 2016-17.
Making its presence felt in the highly competitive global defence market, India exported military hardware worth ₹15,920 crore in financial year 2022-23, the highest ever and a notable tenfold increase since 2016-17, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attributing the surge to enthusiasm for Make in India, and key reforms to spur growth in the sector.
“Excellent! A clear manifestation of India’s talent and the enthusiasm towards ‘Make in India.’ It also shows the reforms in this sector over the last few years are delivering good results. Our government will keep supporting efforts to make India a defence production hub,” Modi tweeted.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh said that defence exports hitting an all-time high was “a remarkable achievement” for the country, and they would continue to grow exponentially.
The country’s defence exports were a mere ₹1,521 crore in 2016-17, but there was a marked improvement in performance in the following years on the back of government policies to boost exports. To be sure, the exports slipped during 2019-21 before climbing back to healthier levels.
The exports stood at ₹4,682 crore in 2017-18, ₹10,745 crore in 2018-19, ₹9,115 crore in 2019-20, ₹8,434 crore in 2020-21, and ₹12,814 crore in 2021-22, according to government data.
India is currently exporting military hardware to around 85 countries, including missiles, the advanced light helicopter (ALH), offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, surveillance systems and a variety of radars. Weapons and systems that hold export potential include the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, different types of helicopters, artillery guns, Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, Akash surface-to-air missile system, tanks, sonars and radars.
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, military affairs expert Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retd) earlier said.
India is in talks with Egypt and Argentina for the possible sale of LCA Tejas to their air forces as the country sharpens its focus on increasing its share in foreign markets. Egypt has projected a requirement for 20 aircraft while the South American country needs 15 new fighters. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is also looking at exporting ALH to the Philippines.
Last year, BrahMos Aerospace and the Philippines signed a deal worth almost $375 million for the Philippine Marines to buy three batteries of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, and Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited won an export order worth $155.5 million for supplying 155mm artillery guns, the first such order for an Indian firm.
In 2020, the Union Cabinet, headed by the PM, gave its go-ahead to the export of Akash missile systems, and also created a high-powered panel for swifter export approvals.
The focus on boosting exports comes alongside a big thrust on indigenisation of weapons and systems. Categories where imports have been almost replaced by domestic products include warships, artillery guns, LCA, basic trainer aircraft, a variety of helicopters, radars, and different types of ammunition.
In a massive push for ‘Make in India,’ the defence ministry on Thursday signed a raft of contracts for indigenous military hardware worth ₹32,100 crore, including warships, supersonic missiles for the navy, and surface-to-air missiles and weapon locating radars for the army, the latest in a series of deals concluded in March ahead of the financial year-end.
In all, the ministry signed contracts worth almost ₹52,000 crore in March for locally made military hardware, including basic trainer aircraft, a satellite for army, training ships, medium-power radars, radar warning receivers, air defence systems, and Dornier aircraft.
Progress in achieving self-reliance goals, and boosting defence exports was reviewed at the three-day Combined Commanders’ Conference in Bhopal, officials said.
India has earmarked 75% of this year’s defence capital procurement budget for locally made weapons and systems, a move aimed at unlocking new opportunities for achieving self-reliance targets and ramping up the country’s defence exports.
The share of the domestic sector in the defence budget was never higher. India set aside 68% of the military’s capital acquisition budget for making indigenous purchases in 2022-23, 64% in 2021-22, and 58% in 2020-21. Around ₹1 lakh crore has been set aside for domestic procurement this year, compared to ₹84,598 crore, ₹70,221 crore and ₹51,000 crore in the three previous years.
The government has also notified hundreds of weapons and systems that cannot be imported, a move aimed at boosting indigenous defence manufacturing.
To be sure, India’s arms imports have fallen over the years, but the country is still the world’s biggest importer of military hardware, according to a report published in March by well-known think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.