The Indian Government is pushing for complete ‘Atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance in the country’s defence sector to ensure national security in the face of changing geo-political and geo-strategic dynamics. The push comes via major government-driven initiatives such as Defence India Start Up Challenges, iDEX initiative, Positive Indigenisation Lists, and sustenance support to Indian Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Most notable of these have been the ‘Make in India’ initiative and the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign which have proved significant in projecting India as a major upcoming defence exporter.

Notably, the country's growing capabilities in defence research, development and production have enabled it to produce a range of advanced defence equipment and technologies that are in demand globally. As per a report by an India-based think tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), “the two Indian capability verticals which are surging well ahead of others are the ‘drone power’ and the ‘missile power’.” The government’s bid to indigenise India’s defence sector has several key implications for the country’s border and aerial security. Furthermore, developing indigenous missiles provide India with strategic autonomy and reduces its dependence on foreign suppliers for critical defence equipment. This is particularly important as India has faced sanctions and embargoes in the past.

The Global Nod To India-Manufactured Missiles

India’s aerospace and defence sectors has made strides in missile development and the modernisation of indigenous weaponry. The nation’s missile manufacturing capabilities have been recognised by the world through export orders, joint ventures, and collaborative projects. Furthermore, India exports a range of Indigenous missiles to several countries. These include-

BrahMos: The BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile developed jointly by India and Russia. It is one of the fastest cruise missiles in the world and has a range of up to 450 kilometres. India has exported the BrahMos missile to the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brazil.

Akash: The Akash is a medium-range surface-to-air missile designed to protect against enemy aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It has a range of up to 25 kilometres and can carry a variety of warheads. India has exported the Akash missile to Vietnam and Armenia.

Prithvi: The Prithvi is a tactical ballistic missile that has a range of up to 350 kilometres. It can carry conventional or nuclear warheads and is designed to strike enemy targets on the ground. India has exported the Prithvi missile to countries such as South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Agni: The Agni is a family of intermediate-range ballistic missiles designed for long-range strikes. The Agni series includes the Agni-I, Agni-II, and Agni-III missiles, which have ranges of up to 700 km, 2,000 km, and 3,000 km, respectively. However, despite being eyed by the global defence market, India has not yet exported the Agni series of missiles to any country.

Notably, India’s missile manufacturing capabilities provide it with a Rapid Response option. Furthermore, the development of indigenous missiles provides the country with an opportunity to engage in advanced technology development with a wide range of applications beyond the defence sector. These technologies can be used in other areas, such as aerospace, energy, and communications.

Overall, indigenous missile capabilities are critical for India's security and strategic interests. They provide India with strategic autonomy, deterrence capabilities, rapid response options, and technological advancements, among other benefits. By investing in indigenous missile capabilities, India can enhance its defence capabilities and maintain its position as a major regional power. Furthermore, “in the realisation of the fact that the Centre of Gravity of the air threat is northward bound, the future missile capabilities have to ensure that weapon platforms are made lighter with adequate mobility as to remain viable for deployment in the northern sector,” the CLAWS report suggests.