English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

India’s ranking as defence exporter improves in Sipri data

India’s ranking as defence exporter improves in Sipri data

For the first time ever, India has been recognized as an arms exporter. The annual report on global arms transfers by the Stockholm-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) shows India at number 21 under the list of arms’ exporting nations.

Over the last few years, India has sold its defence products to more than 40 countries, which include biggies like the US, Germany, France, Israel, South Africa, UAE, Finland, and Sweden. However, India’s biggest defence clients are to be found in the neighborhood—Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Mauritius.

India has sold the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters to Mauritius, Maldives, and Nepal; the Chetak light utility helicopters to Namibia, Suriname, Nepal, and Mauritius and HAL’s Dornier 228 light transport aircraft to the Seychelles and Mauritius. India sold the indigenously-developed lightweight torpedoes to Myanmar and various kinds of naval equipment to Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

Over the last three years, India has also exported patrol vessels, helicopters, radars and sonars, small arms, ammunition, grenades, telecommunication equipment, bullet-proof jackets, and body armor to many other countries.

For years, India held the distinction of being either the top or the second-largest arms importer in the world. With this tag also came notoriety that an underdeveloped country like India was spending so much money on buying weaponry instead of looking after its poor. The questions came from the West which, ironically, was selling weapons while holding India to infamy. The Western countries remain the largest sellers of weapons, even to regions in conflict.

However, this image is set to change as India progressively turns into an arms exporter and reduces its weapons imports. For the moment, India's weapons exports are little—a meagre 0.2 per cent of the global arms market. Even this small amount is a considerable leap as India moves to the 21st spot in 2019, up from the 24th spot in 2018, in Sipri’s 2020 report.

Sipri data show that India's defence exports have been steadily rising since 2014 except once in 2018 when exports dipped. Year 2014 is a critical benchmark as this was the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Make in India programme to boost manufacturing, become self-reliant, create jobs, and increase exports. Of the 25 sectors identified for Make in India, boosting defence production was a priority area. Self-reliance was flagged as important to not just reduce the import bill but also ensure that in times of conflict, dependence on weapons exporting countries reduces.

With these aims, India made a specific export strategy for defence products for the first time in August 2014, keeping legal and regulatory mechanisms, licensing procedures, enforcement laws, and private sector involvement in mind. The country critically looked at international regulations governing defence exports and eventually finalized a draft roadmap for self-reliance and indigenization in defence.

At the recently-held Defence Expo at Lucknow, a biennial event where India showcases its weaponry, Modi once again urged foreign defence firms to set up manufacturing in India. He said: “In 2014, the export of defence equipment from India was about Rs 2,000 crore. In the last two years, it has gone up to Rs 17,000 crore. In the next five years, our target is to increase exports to $5 billion, which is about Rs 35,000 crore.”

Modi said that the world’s largest democracy cannot remain dependent on imports for its security. India had faced a bitter reality during the 1999 Kargil war when some of the weapons exporting countries either refused supplies or asked for exorbitant prices on the excuse that they could not provide ammunition to a country in conflict, jeopardizing the country’s territorial sovereignty.

India's defence manufacturing has largely happened at the British-era Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the Defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs). Currently there are 41 OFBs and nine DPSUs manufacturing defence equipment in India. The arena has been opened to the private sector including foreign defence companies.

Experts say that India can look at regions of low intensity conflict like Africa and South America for its defence exports. Many of these countries are currently being served by China and the West, who charge many times more than India. In the past India has refused to sell weapons to African countries forcing them to procure the same equipment at ridiculously high rates from Western nations..