India pitched itself as a defence partner to countries in the Indian Ocean and other regions as Aero India 2021 came to a close on Friday (February 5).
The country, which aims to raise its defence manufacturing base from $11 billion to $25 billion by 2025, showcased its capabilities at the exhibition, including light combat helicopters, missiles and radars. New Delhi hopes to move away from being one of the world’s biggest importers of weapons to being an exporter.
Addressing a press conference on the last day of the show in Bengaluru, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that between 2015 and 2020, India’s defence exports grew from ₹2,000 crore to ₹9,000 crore. “It is important to note that a vast majority of our defence exports are being spearheaded by the private sector,” The Print website quoted him as saying.
The minister emphasised the need for the country to have a robust manufacturing base. “We plan to move from a $11 billion defence base to $25 billion by 2025. Of this, we further intend to create an export component of $5 billion,” he said.
Singh, who chaired the first ever Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers Conclave in the city on Thursday, said the aerospace sector has an important role to play if India has to reach its target of defence production of $25 billion and exports of $5 billion by 2025.
One of the highlights of Aero India 2021 was the signing of the contract for 83 light combat aircraft Tejas. The government is keen to export Tejas to various countries, with a particular focus on the Indian Ocean Region, and plans to open offices of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in other countries.
“Our strategic interests lie in the Indian Ocean Region. This is where we are focusing. We are not only looking at being the preferred security partner but also a defence partner by which we can equip them with systems that are affordable and hi-tech,” a senior official in the defence ministry told The Print reporter on condition of anonymity.
Singh said the government wants to bring down defence imports by at least $2 billion by 2022. “Between 2016 and 2019, 138 proposals worth over $37 billion for domestic manufacturing have been approved,” he said.
Nearly 50 countries participated in the air show this year.