India aims to triple defense exports to $5 bln, says PM Modi at Aero India show

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India wants to more than triple annual defense exports to $5 billion by 2024/25 from $1.5 billion currently as it looks to ramp up domestic manufacturing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday while inaugurating the Aero India show.

The country is looking to sign defense deals worth 750 billion rupees ($9 billion) 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.

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“Today, India is not just a market for defense companies, it is also a potential defense 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 defense 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.

US Air Force F-35 fighter jet is parked during the Aero India 2023 air show at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, India, on February 13, 2023. (Reuters)
US Air Force F-35 fighter jet is parked during the Aero India 2023 air show at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru, India, on February 13, 2023. (Reuters)

At the Aero India event, held at the Air Force Station of Yelahanka near Bengaluru, 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 European Union and the United States 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, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Israel Aerospace Industry, BrahMos, SAAB, Rolls Royce, Larsen & Toubro, HAL, and Bharat Electronics Ltd.

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

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