India is the second largest arms importer between 2017 and 2021, accounting for 11 percent of the total market share with Saudi Arabia. However, in recent years, New Delhi has been making progress toward becoming a major defense exporter.

According to the latest report by India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB), the country’s defense export grew by an outstanding 334 percent over the last five years—with the highest-ever being recorded in the second quarter of 2022 at roughly $165 million.

“The Indian Defense sector, the second largest armed force, is at the cusp of revolution. Defense exports grew by 334% in the last five years; India is now exporting to over 75 countries due to collaborative efforts,” PIB tweeted on Sunday, September 25.

So far in the fiscal year 2021-2022, New Delhi’s defense and technology manufacturing exports have surpassed a new record high of approximately $1.6 billion, that’s over 54 percent compared to the previous year.

Statistic: Market share of the leading exporters of major weapons between 2017 and 2021, by country | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista.

The growth has been said to be attributed to India’s indigenous defense technologies that were developed in the last decade, including its first homegrown aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and Advanced Light Helicopter MK III squadron, indigenously-developed Laser-guided Anti-tank Guided Missile (ATGM), and New generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile dubbed the “Agni-Prime.” On top of that, India’s very own BrahMos PJ-10 supersonic cruise missile is making its way into its service branch and sales across 75 countries worldwide, primarily to the Philippines and other Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

The Economic Times reported earlier this year that India’s ambitious plan to boost its annual export has already been making significant progress growing nearly eight times since 2014, and its target, a whopping $6.2 billion by 2025, appeared to be an achievable feat if they manage to maintain the sale trend.

India’s Modified Weapon Procuring Process

In April, the Indian Ministry of Defense announced that it would modify its process of procuring weapons, limiting it to domestically produced with a few exceptions. The move is part of the ongoing “Make in India” initiative the current administration launched in 2014 to lessen the reliance on weapon importation while promoting domestic production.

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said that the agency had created a list of over 300 different systems that will not be imported “once the deadlines are set against them,” including light tanks, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The most recent contract export India signed was with the Philippines in January, worth $375 million for BrahMos Missile Systems—a medium-range stealth joint-venture product of Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya in the late 1990s. The BrahMos is expected to strengthen the Philippine Navy’s firepower, particularly the Philippine Marine Corps’ coastal defense regiment, and to enable counterattack capabilities and protection within its exclusive economic zone.

Philippines-India Arms Deal Signing
Philippines and India signed a deal for the BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile system for the Philippine Navy on January 28, 2022. (Image source: Twitter)

Following the supersonic cruise missile deal, it has become India’s most significant export order. It could open more contracts with other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

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Another Indian indigenous defense weapon popular for export is the Akash air defense missile, recognized as the country’s most crucial missile. It is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system developed in the 1990s and commissioned into the Indian Army and Air Force in the late 2000s. The missile targets aircraft up to 19 miles away and can neutralize aerial targets such as fighter jets, cruise missiles, SAM, and ballistic missiles.

Nations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East have shown interest in procuring the Indian SAM system in recent years, especially with the growing tension in the South China Sea.

Among the Top 25 Arms Exporters Worldwide

As previously mentioned, the Indian government has created friendly relations with neighboring countries to encourage defense exports. With a smooth and steady transaction, it could potentially move up from its current position in the Top 25 exporters in the world (as of October 2021).

Statistic: Market share in the import of major arms between 2017 and 2021, by country | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista.

According to Statista, the United States remained the largest arms exporter worldwide, with a market share of 39 percent between 2017 and 2021. Followed by Russia, accounting for 19 percent, and countries France (4.6%), Germany (4.5%), and China (3.1%).

Meanwhile, China led the world in increased military spending between 2012 and 2021, with a 72 percent increase, while India ranks sixth with a 33 percent increase during the same period. Moreover, according to the latest statistics, the United States has reduced its spending by 6.1 percent.

As both superpower defense industries were preoccupied with supplying the Russia-Ukraine war and tensions in the Asia-Pacific between China and the US, India saw an opportunity to expand and fill whatever gaping hole it needed to fill to boost further its ambitious plan of becoming one of the world’s top arms exporters before the decade’s end.