A little-reported event of DefExpo which concluded in Lucknow on weekend was the presence of 14 defence ministers and 19 defence chief from Africa.
India already has defence partnerships with 8 African nations and looks for more as it wants to be net security provider for Africa.
It’s an ambitious India we are witnessing who are world’s second largest importer but nowhere amongst the top 10 defence exporters yet is eyeing Africa! It also has “sales” office in Hanoi as it seeks to dig deep in ASEAN market for its defence exports.
So far the defence exports mostly relate to components, ordnance, training, armoured vehicles, patrol vessels etc but with two indigenously developments missiles Akash and Brahmos, the latter with the help of Russia, India is basking in the attention of world-buyers, attracted by its costs and unique ability.
Akash missile system can target aircraft up to 30km away, at altitudes up to 18000 metres. It has the capability to neutralize aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles, as well as ballistic missiles.
The BrahMos is a medium-range supersonic cruise missile that could be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft or land. It’s the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. Russia has played a clinching role in the development of BrahMos and the two countries are planning to develop a new generation o BrahMos missiles with 600km range, an upgrade on the present range of 500kms.
The Russian share in Indian arms imports, incidentally, is likely to go up in the next five-year period as India signed several procurement deals recently. These include S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, and a second nuclear attack submarine on lease. India has also signed deals with Russia for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters and short-range air defence systems.
India already has ambitious plans to sell indigenously developed Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles, being produced in its Amethi factory.
As for ASEAN market, Vietnam appears to be India’s gateway of arms exorts. It’s one country which has a “comprehensive” strategic partnership with India. Bharat Electronics (BEL) opened its Hanoi office in June 2018. It’s not just for Vietnamese market but also after-sales support centre for India’s all South East Asia inroads. India’s strategic vision centres around its outreach in Southeast Asia and Vietnam is pivot to India’s “Act East” policy.
India has imported over $100 billion of weapons over a decade (2008-2017) and is presently second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of money it spends to equip itself with defence imports. This figure could go up substantially once it inducts S-400 missile systems from Russia and once the supply of Rafale Jets from France kicks in.
This is the same India about which its first prime minister Nehru said it doesn’t need military.
This is the same India which didn’t change its military structure after the British left for decades.
Only after 1962, in the aftermath of Indo-Sino conflict, did India wake up to its military needs.
In 1964, the first five-year defence plan was set up.
Today India is a nuclear power, largest importer and an ambitious exporter of its defence products. It has world’s fourth largest defence budget. It also aims to create 3 million defence-related jobs. All in a matter of half a century.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi recently announced India looks for $5 billion worth of defence exports by 2024. In 2019, it exported defence material up to $1.14 billion.