India – the world's largest importer of military hardware – is now turning its eye to exports. Indian defence exports will touch $2 billion (about Rs13,500 crore)– six times the current level - by 2019, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said at a Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) function in New Delhi on Tuesday.
India exported Rs1,100 crore worth of defence equipment in 2013-14, and Rs1,582 crore in 2014-15. In 2016, Indian defence equipment exports stood at Rs2,060 crore.
India is looking at countries like Vietnam, Mauritius, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Afghanistan and Oman to export defence equipment. The items that India is looking to export include bridging equipment, missiles, warships, off-Shore patrol vessels (OPVs), and self-propelled artillery guns (SP Guns), the defence minister said, adding that Oman is keen to import border fencing equipment from India.
Indian-made OPVs are already guarding Mauritian waters and it is in the process of finalising sale of warships to Vietnam.
Asked whether India will export the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles to Vietnam, the defence minister said, "Vietnam is a friend, I will not confirm the nature of the missiles to be exported. We are, however, helping build capabilities."
Earlier, Vietnam had shown keen interest in buying the Brahmos from India.
Exporting defence equipment will have diplomatic ramifications. For instance, Pakistan is unlikely to be happy with India exporting defence platforms to Afghanistan. Similarly, Indian-made warships and missiles in the Vietnamese armoury are likely to unsettle Beijing.
"India has developed a lot of equipment and technologies but no one really applied their mind to export them," the defence minister said. "The private sector has developed artillery guns and once needs of the Indian Army is met, these can be exported."
The rise in export of defence equipments is despite the list of items included in the "defence equipment list" being cropped. It is "only one third of the original list", Parrikar said.
The push in defence exports is accompanied by increased production of the Ordnance Factory Boards (OFB) and the defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs). In the last two years, production in the OFBs and DPSUs has shot up by over 25 per cent.