Chennai: The government cannot compel the armed forces to buy indigenous weapons, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Wednesday after inaugurating a major defence exhibition --the DefExpo-- that aims to project India as one of the major defence manufacturing hub in the world.
The NDA government is trying to project the 10th edition of the biennial event as first serious attempt to transform India into a hub of military manufacturing and pursue its goal of achieving turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore in military goods and services by 2025 by promoting the domestic defence industry.
According to a report in NDTV, Sitharaman, while speaking to reporters at exhibition in Thiruvidanthai near Chennai, said she can't "force the forces" to buy only "Made in India" equipment.
While it would be nice if that were to happen, the armed forces were at liberty to pick and choose the equipment they need from anywhere in the world, she added.
On being asked about the huge export-import gap in the defence sector of a country that does not even figure among the top 25 exporters of arms and reluctance of its forces to buy locally manufactured weapon systems, the defence minister said she could only tell the armed forces to procure from indigenous companies “as much as possible”, news agency IANS reported.
While India's military remains the world's biggest buyer of defence equipment, the country is aspiring to become a key manufacturer and eventually an exporter.
To that end, the DefExpo is focusing on India's ability to successfully manufacture defence systems - a shift from offering foreign firms a platform to showcase products the country could buy.
The theme of the expo is “India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub.”
According to the Defence Ministry, over 670 defence firms, including 154 foreign manufacturers, are participating in the exhibition of weapons and military hardware. It is being attended by official delegations from over 47 countries, including the US, the UK, Russia, Afghanistan, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Portugal, Seychelles and Vietnam.
Major international companies, which are participating at the expo include Lockheed Martin, Boeing (US), Saab (Sweden), Airbus, Rafale (France), Rosonboron Exports, United Shipbuilding (Russia), BAE Systems (UK), Sibat (Israel), Wartsila (Finland) and Rhode and Schwarz (Germany).
India's indigenously developed land, air and naval systems are also being showcased. The weapons and platforms being displayed include the Tejas fighter jets, advanced towed artillery gun systems (ATAGS) designed by the DRDO Arjun Mark 2 tank and Dhanush artillery guns.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) exhibits include the Nirbhay missile system with launcher, autonomous unmanned ground vehicle (AUGV), MBT Arjun Mk-I tank, Astra missile, low level transportable radar (LLTR) system, medium power radar (MPR) system and Varunastra -- heavy weight anti submarine electric torpedo. The exhibition is spread over an area of 2.90 lakh square feet.
(With inputs from PTI)