BANGALORE: India is ready to supply a range of weapon systems, including missiles, combat aircraft and tanks to friendly nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), with the focus being on capacity building and cooperative engagements to maintain peace and stability, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told his regional counterparts at a first-of-its-kind conclave here on Thursday.

Describing the Indian defence sector as a reliable partner with state-of-the-art technologies, the minister said that IOR is the “region of the future” and its nations are interlinked to a common destiny. While he did not refer to it, the minister’s words gain significance as they come even as India is locked in a border confrontation with China, like some other nations in the region facing maritime disputes with Beijing.

In what is the strongest pitch yet to place India as a primary supplier of high-end weapons, the minister said a variety of equipment is now ready for export. “India is ready to supply various types of missile systems, TEJAS/helicopters, multi-purpose light transport aircraft, warship and patrol vessels, artillery gun systems, tanks, radars, military vehicles, electronic warfare systems and other weapons systems to IOR nations,” Singh said in an address to 28 defence ministers of the IOR.

From a traditional inwards approach where exporting lethal weapons was seen as a red line, India is fast focusing on creating a robust global market for home-grown military equipment, a transition that took place after the NDA came into power in 2014.

On Thursday, details were also shared on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-1A, which has recently been ordered by the Indian Air Force, to showcase it as a high-technology, low-cost product. R Madhavan, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chief shared that the per unit cost of the fighter jet would be close to $42 million, placing it as a very competitive product for price-conscious customers.

The senior official also shared that there has been keen interest from South East Asia nations for the fighter jets and there is hope that an export contract can be inked soon. While he did not mention the names of potential customers, detailed discussions have taken place in recent times with Malaysia that is seeking to acquire new light fighter jets.

In his address to regional ministers, Rajnath Singh said that with home-grown technology and the prowess of its armed force, India has tremendous reach and the ability to help like-minded nations. “India has adopted a cooperative approach through capacity-building assistance in partner countries. This is reflected in India’s supply of Indian-made ships, maritime aircraft and the setting up of Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems,” he said.

The minister described the four pillars of foreign military cooperation in the region as Capacity Building, Capability Enhancement, Cooperative Engagements and Collaborative Efforts, saying that due to its location, historical and cultural ties in the region, India considers it important to keep the maritime neighbourhood safe and secure against challenges originating from the maritime domain.