Bangalore: India wants to more than triple annual defence exports to US$5 billion by 2024-2025 from US$1.5 billion currently as it looks to ramp up domestic manufacturing, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday while inaugurating the Aero India show.

The country is looking to sign 750 billion rupees (US$9 billion) of defence deals at the biennial five-day event, its biggest ever, as its airlines try to complete jetliner purchases to meet civilian demand and press global aircraft manufacturers to produce more locally, mainly through partnerships.

“Today, India is not just a market for defence companies, it is also a potential defence partner,” Modi said in his speech at the show. “I call on India’s private sector to invest more and more in the country’s defence sector.”

India, for decades one of the world’s biggest importers of defence equipment, now exports to 75 countries, he added.

Past Indian exports include Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Dhruv helicopters to the Philippines, Mauritius and Ecuador, and Russia-

India venture BrahMos Aerospace’s supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines. HAL has also offered its Tejas light-combat aircraft for sale to Malaysia.

At the Aero India event, held at the Air Force Station of Yelahanka near Bangalore, officials cheered acrobatic displays by aircraft, including Soviet-made Sukhoi 30s.

Sharing borders with nuclear-armed rivals China and Pakistan, India’s Soviet-era air force fleet is in desperate need of modernizing. Suppliers in the EU and the US have been lobbying for a bigger share of the market.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it imperative for India to further diversify its supply base, amid fears of US sanctions, possible Russian supply disruption and Western pressure on New Delhi to limit ties with Moscow.

Exhibitors at the show include Airbus SE, Boeing Co, Dassault Aviation SA, Lockheed Martin Corp, Israel Aerospace Industry Ltd, BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd, SAAB Automobile AB, Rolls Royce PLC, Larsen & Toubro Ltd, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Bharat Electronics Ltd.

India’s airlines are also expanding, with Tata Group’s Air India Ltd expected to announce a potentially record deal to buy nearly 500 jets from Airbus and Boeing, worth more than US$100 billion at list prices.