India became the world’s largest arms importer as it did not utilise its capacities to full potential after Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on Wednesday and asserted that India was looking to achieve defence exports worth Rs. 35,000 crore in the next five years.
“Post Independence, we did not use our defence opportunities and abilities to the full potential. Our policies and strategies remained focused on import. India thus became the largest arms importer in the world,” Mr. Modi said at the inaugural of the 11th Defexpo. After 2014, the government had undertaken several policy reforms, he pointed out.
Mr. Modi talked about India turning into a manufacturing hub for military platforms and noted that defence manufacturing had found new energy. “In the last two years, defence exports worth Rs. 17,000 crore has been achieved; it is up from Rs. 2000 crore in 2014,” he said.
A long-term integrated defence plan was being conceptualised with emphasis on start-ups and Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs). Two hundred defence start-ups were likely to come up to give a push to indigenisation. “Defence manufacturing will not only make us self-reliant but also ensure we are prepared to help friendly countries in the region if required,” he said.
Mr. Modi declared that India’s ambitions in the defence sector were not directed against anyone. “India has been a trustworthy partner of peace.”
Security challenges were changing with technology and security agencies were also more dependent on technology to counter these, he pointed out.
The Prime Minister highlighted the various joint ventures being set up to build defence hardware in the country. The government had simplified investment guidelines that had the potential to attract Rs. 17,000 crore Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the defence sector in the next five years. “Till 2014, only 217 defence licences were issued. In the last five years, this number has grown to 460. We’re now building several defence pieces of equipment like artillery guns, aircraft carriers, submarines, light-combat aircraft and combat helicopters,” he stated.
Mr. Modi also spoke about the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI). He said his government had created a road map to increase its usage in the defence sector and a lot of prototypes were being launched today. “In the next five years, we want to develop at least 25 products associated with AI in the defence sector,” he added.
This edition of the biennial Defexpo has the participation of over 1000 companies, including 172 foreign manufacturers. Defence ministers of 38 countries were also present.
The theme of the Defexpo, being hosted by Lucknow for the first time, is “India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub”, with the focus on “digital transformation of defence”, on which Mr. Modi said, “Wrong use of technology, terrorism and cyber threats are the big hurdles for the entire world.”