India, until very recently, was one of the top countries for importing defence products. However, with changes in government policies and the push for private sectors in the defence industry, defence product manufacturers are seeing a brighter future. The demand for Indian-made defence products is meeting internal defence needs and being exported to many Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
The boost to the Indian defence sector came with the push for the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiative, which aims to make Indian import-free when it comes to defence supplies. As part of this initiative, a significant part of the defence R&D budget has been earmarked for helping start-ups and private industries try to enter the defence segment. The Indian government also approved Industrial licenses for more than 366 companies in the Defence sector. All these have seen a boost in the export of Indian Defence supplies to more than 75 countries in the last five years.
In 2021, the defence import for India stood at a staggering USD $470 million. From 2018 to 2022, the import of arms and other supplies decreased by 11% but still, India stood as one of the top importers in the global arms market. However, India started climbing up the charts in the same period as a defence exporter. In 2019, India ranked 19th, and in 2022-23, the export segment is expected to surpass US $583 million! That is a staggering 33% increase in just five years.
There are many reasons why now nearly 75 countries prefer India as their collaborative import partner regarding defence supplies. Some of them are:
In 2022, India held the 12th and, to date, the largest-ever defence exhibit DefExpo 2022, to showcase the emerging Indian Defence market. This huge expo was a great success as more than 1,340 defence product manufacturers, investors, start-ups, the Armed Forces, MSMEs, and high-level delegates from several countries participated.
The first ever indigenously built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was commissioned by our Prime Minister in 2022. The carrier was built with 76% of its contents made in India and showcased the emerging defence manufacturing sector of the country.
As many as 411 products have been earmarked for being made in India, thus removing the need to import them.
So, this is how India is slowly rising from being a top importer to a significant exporter in the global arms trade.