Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurates Aero India 2021, makes a pitch for defence exports to friendly countries

Published : February 03, 2021 15:42 IST

At the inauguration of Aero India 2021 at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru on February 3, (from left) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria and Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane. Photo: Aijaz Rahi/AP

The Indian Air Force's Rafale fighter jets fly past during the air show, on February 3. Photo: SAMUEL RAJKUMAR/REUTERS

The Suryakirans at the Aero India 2021 show in Bengaluru on February 3. Photo: SOMASHEKAR G.R.N.

India’s premier and Asia’s largest aerospace and defence exhibition, Aero India 2021, took off today, in Bengaluru amidst clear blue skies, effervescent crowds, colourful flying formation displays and the tumultuous roar of powerful aero engines.

The organisers of the 13th edition of the biennial international jamboree at the Air Force Station Yelahanka have ensured a strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols, and as a matter of precaution converted many of their confabulations, seminars and business to business meetings to the virtual mode. This makes Aero India 2021 the world’s first hybrid aerospace and defence exposition. The buzz words at the three-day air show were certainly ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, or self-reliant India. It was announced that the Narendra Modi government, under Atmanirbhar Bharat’, would look to spend $130 billion for military modernisation during the next seven-eight years.

Inaugurating the air show, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh highlighted the vast potential and the multifaceted opportunities India offers in the defence and aerospace manufacturing sectors. Said the Defence Minster: “This opportunity comes as a sangam (confluence) of rising demand, greater innovation, more conducive policies and a maturing ecosystem in defence and aerospace manufacturing sectors.” Going on to stress that the government in recent times had taken steps to strengthen the country’s security apparatus, Rajnath Singh emphasised that the domestic manufacture of complex defence platforms had become the focus of the government’s attention and policy.

The Minister said the Government of India had begun to focus its attention on export of Indian defence products to friendly countries. “We are moving from ‘Make in India, to ‘Make for the World’,” he stressed. He disclosed that a high-level committee had been constituted which would authorise the export of various strategic platforms to various countries, leading to faster approvals. India has the potential to become a reliable supplier of defence equipment to many of its friendly nations,” the Minister said.

The Minister added that the vision of the government was to make India one of the biggest countries in the defence sector. Said Rajnath Singh: “From design to production, with the active participation of the public and private sectors, we hope to achieve the twin goals of self-reliance and exports. We have set a target of Rs.175,000 crore including exports of Rs.35,000 crore, in aerospace and defence goods and services by the year 2024.”

While much of the Minister’s speech was dedicated to defence and aerospace manufacturing, and the potential for it in India, in an oblique reference to the standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh, he said India was prepared to defend its territorial integrity at all costs. Said Rajnath Singh: “We have long witnessed unfortunate attempts to employ force to change the status quo along our unresolved borders. India is vigilant and prepared to counter and defeat any misadventure to defend our people and the territorial integrity at all costs.”

The Minister made clear the government’s intention to encourage foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to either set up wholly owned subsidiaries in India or enter into strategic partnerships with Indian entities. Aero India 2021, he stressed, should provide the ideal platform for companies that were looking to forge such collaborations and partnerships, and act as a catalyst for foreign firms to invest in India.

Said the Minister: “Since 2014 the Government of India has brought in many reforms in the defence sector to create a conducive ecosystem for exports and foreign direct investment, and the Government of India has enhanced FDI in defence to 74 per cent through the automatic route and 100 per cent through the government route. This should act as a catalyst for foreign players to invest in India.”

Speaking about the newly introduced ‘Buy global, Manufacture in India’ category of defence procurement in the defence acquisition policy, Rajnath Singh said this allowed the outright purchase of equipment from foreign vendors followed by indigenous manufacture through its subsidiaries in India or joint ventures, or through an Indian production agency. Said the Minister: “Another newly introduced provision of the Make III in the DPP [Defence Procurement Policy] 2020 provides for Indian firms to manufacture defence items either in collaboration or with transfer of technology from foreign OEMs. The new offset policy, announced in October 2020 as the DPP 2020, was focussed on attracting investment and transfer of technology by according higher multipliers.”

“Over the years the Government of India has facilitated the establishment of wide-ranging defence production facilities of various defence equipment through public sector units and ordnance factory boards. A large number of state of the art weapons systems, platforms and equipment have been developed by the DRDO [Defence Research and Development Organisation] to meet the requirements of the armed forces through the establishment of a strong technology base,” he added.

Highlighting the growing traffic in civil aviation, be it passenger or cargo, the Minister said there was a huge potential in India, especially in the manufacturing of aeroengines, their sub-assemblies and in the maintenance, repair and overhaul sector. He invited global companies to take advantage of the facilities and the ease of doing business in India, by setting up manufacturing and repair and overhaul facilities for both civil and military aircraft. This, he said, would allow operators achieve a faster turnaround time, thereby saving costs.

Over 540 exhibitors, including 80 from overseas, representing nearly 60 counties, besides Defence Ministers from Maldives, Ukraine, Equatorial Guinea, Iran and Madagascar, ambassadors, delegates, and business heads are present at the air show, with many more taking part virtually.

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