India’s defence exports have recorded nearly a six-fold increase between 2017 and 2021, growing from ₹1,520 crore to ₹8,435 crore

In what reflects India’s sharpened focus on getting a toehold in foreign defence markets, the government granted close to a thousand export authorisations last year, nearly four times the number approved five years ago, and cut down the time for such approvals by a third between 2017 and 2021, officials familiar with developments said.

The defence ministry issued 954 export authorisations for different weapons and sub-systems in 2021, compared to 829 in 2020, 668 in 2019, 288 in 2018 and 254 in 2017, the officials said, attributing to the nearly four-fold increase to the government’s export-friendly policies to tap new markets.

During the same time period, the average time taken for issuing export approvals came down from 86 days in 2017 to 35 days last year, added the officials mentioned above.

India’s defence exports have recorded nearly a six-fold increase between 2017 and 2021, growing from ₹1,520 crore to ₹8,435 crore.

Defence items being exported by India include missiles, the advanced light helicopter, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, surveillance systems and a variety of radars.

In January, India’s BrahMos Aerospace and the Philippines signed a deal worth almost $375 million for the Philippine Marines to acquire three batteries of the BrahMos cruise missile, a shot in the arm for New Delhi’s efforts to emerge as an exporter of major defence hardware.

“India is poised to expand its footprint in foreign defence markets. The world has taken note of the BrahMos deal. And several other Asian and African countries could be potential buyers of the missile. There are several other indigenous platforms that hold good export potential,” said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

The military hardware that holds export potential includes the light combat aircraft, Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, Akash surface-to-air missile system, tanks, sonars and radars, as previously reported by HT.

In December 2020, the Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its go-ahead to the sale of Akash missile systems to friendly foreign countries. It also created a high-powered panel for swifter approvals to export of military hardware. India has set a target of clocking defence exports worth $5 billion by 2024.

The focus on boosting exports comes along with a renewed thrust on indigenisation of weapons and systems.

On February 25, the PM said customisation and uniqueness of military hardware was critical to hold the advantage of surprise over India’s adversaries, and that this can be achieved only if weapons and systems are developed in the country. He also said India was providing ‘Made in India’ defence equipment and services to more than 75 countries.

India will soon notify a new list of weapons and systems that cannot be imported. This will be the third positive indigenisation list -- the government has already notified two such lists of 209 weapons and equipment.

These include artillery guns, missile destroyers, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, light transport aircraft, long-range land-attack cruise missiles, basic trainer aircraft, multi-barrel rocket launchers, assault rifles, sniper rifles, mini-UAVs, specified types of helicopters, next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning and Control (AEW&C) systems, tank engines and medium-range surface to air missile systems.