INDIAN DEFENCE IMPORTS ARE DOWN BY 21%; BUDGET MAY SUPPORT MORE MADE-IN-INDIA

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The rate of import of defence products has slowed dramatically, particularly under the Modi regime. On the other hand, India has emerged as a major exporter of defence equipment in recent years.

New Delhi: According to SIPRI data for the period 2017-21, the United States, Russia, France, China, and Germany were the major defence exporters, while India and Saudi Arabia were among the largest buyers. Though the figures do not reveal many shocks, one noteworthy trend is that India now exports defence products to over 75 countries.

The rate of import of defence products has slowed dramatically over the years, particularly under the Modi regime. From being one of the main importers of armaments and platforms, India is now attempting to manufacture a wide range of equipment as part of its ‘Make-in-India in Defence’ objective, and has emerged as one of the major exporters of defence products.

It is critical for any major economy to be self-sufficient on major fronts, particularly defence production. The Modi government has mandated that any defence products that can be manufactured in India be done so. India has advanced in defence manufacture thanks to technology transfer through partnerships and indigenization.

According to SIPRI data, India has drastically reduced its defence purchases. It demonstrates that between 2012-16 and 2017-21, Indian arms imports fell by 21%. However, the report also reveals another troubling fact: India remains the largest importer of significant weaponry in 2017-21, accounting for 11% of overall world arms imports.

The Modi government brought in a defence manufacturing policy that focuses on indigenization under which it first notified three ‘Positive Indigenisation lists’ comprising 310 defence equipment. The government has made sure that these are manufactured locally and some of them are exported as well to the partners.

FDI Relaxation In Defence Manufacturing

The Indian government has liberalised the defence sector significantly in order to encourage FDI and technology transfer. One such step is encouraging exports, for which it has permitted 74% FDI in the defence sector via the automated route and 100% via the government route. Needless to say, with two defence corridors – one in Uttar Pradesh and one in Tamil Nadu – a variety of defence industrial units are being established.

Several novel platforms are being created to aid in defence sector innovation. For example, iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence) and DTIS (Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme) are crucial in the defence sector’s innovation and incubation.

One significant development is that India has signed a contract for the manufacture of C-295 aircraft for the Indian Air Force. Tata Advanced Systems Limited is doing this in collaboration with Airbus Defence and Space S.A. Spain. Previous but not least, under the Modi administration, defence exports have increased eightfold in the last five years.

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