India is becoming self-reliant in defence production, and for the first time, leading the top 25 countries in defence exports, Union minister Ajay Bhatt said on Sunday.
The Minister of State for Defence was speaking at the Advantage Vidarbha programme in Nagpur.
He said the government has issued four lists of 4,666 defence components whose import is banned, resulting in huge savings.
“India, for the first time, is leading a group of top 25 countries in defence export as it is becoming self-reliant in defence production.
“The defence exports rose from Rs 4,682 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 15,916 crore in 2022-23. (Defence) export till December 2023 is about Rs 9,428 crore,” the Union minister added.
Bhatt said almost all defence PSUs are in profit after the ordnance factories were decentralised. He said the defence ministry is promoting innovation and technology. Despite the Union government’s claims of having rapidly localised its materiel procurements under its ‘Atmanirbharta’ (or self-sufficiency) initiative, India continues to top the global list of defence equipment importers,
According to PIB, India’s defence exports reached an all-time high of approximately Rs 16,000 crore in fiscal year 2022-23, up 10 times since 2016-17. Amit Cowshish, a former financial advisor (acquisitions) in the Ministry of Defence, cited three reasons why India is lagging in this field. First, a country must have a wide variety of export-worthy “major military equipment” to make a dent in the global market.
However, India’s exports are mainly low-value products, coupled with the modest size of export orders, he said.
If the value of India’s export orders jumped from Rs 8,434 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 12,814 crore in 2021-22, it was essentially because of relatively high-end products like BrahMos Aerospace signing a deal worth $375 million with the Philippines for three batteries of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and Kalyani Strategic Systems Limited bagging a contract worth $155.5 million for export of 155mm artillery guns to an unnamed country.
Second, he said that the “Indian defence products have not demonstrated an impeccable record of reliability, operational efficacy, and after-sales service for the potential importers to consider buying them seriously.”
Third, he said that except for the US, whose high-value exports are staggered across many countries, the bulk of exports by other major exporters is to a limited number of countries.