India seeks to boost military exports to Gulf
Thursday, 20 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
ABU DHABI: India is looking at new markets in the Middle East and Far East as it seeks to increase exports of military hardware like sophisticated missiles and artillery guns. As part of moves in that direction, a high-level Indian delegation participated in the 6th International Defence Exposition and Conferences -- IDEX 2003 -- held here March 16-20. Minister of State for Defence Production O. Rajagopal said India had received an encouraging response to its efforts to showcase the supersonic cruise missile Brahmos jointly developed with Russia. "We have set our eyes on friendly countries in the Middle East and Far East in our bid to boost exports of defence goods and services," Rajagopal said. He noted that the Indian government had set a target of 10 billion for defence exports this year. In the past, he said, India had opted to wait for countries to come to it for transacting business in the defence sector. Lt. Gen. Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of Staff of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, was among those who visited the stand displaying the Brahmos missile, currently in the final stage of development. India's armed forces expect to induct the supersonic cruise missile with a range of 290 km into their armoury next year. An Indian official said a country in the Middle East had shown keen interest in India's anti-tank guided missiles, which are competitively priced and had been bought by Tanzania, Botswana and Morocco. Another official of India's Ordnance Factory Board said efforts would be made to market India's 155mm field gun, an upgraded version of the 130mm gun. IDEX 2003 saw the first overseas demonstration of this gun, with Rajagopal witnessing a firing demonstration at Maqtara range. Rajagopal also attended a reception on board the missile destroyer INS Mumbai, brought here for IDEX 2003. Mumbai is the third of the home-grown Delhi class of destroyers, the largest warships built by India, and is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and weapons. The Ordnance Factory Board comprising 39 factories, Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Bharat Earth Movers Limited are the three state-owned Indian defence firms participating in the exhibition. Capt. S.K. Banerjee, deputy general manager for business development in BDL, said the indigenously designed Akash anti-aircraft missile had entered advanced stages of development. The missile is expected to replace Russian-made missiles currently used by Indian forces. BDL showcased small arms and simulators at the Abu Dhabi show. Despite tension in the region over U.S.-led attacks on Iraq, 825 companies from 45 countries, over 55 defence ministers and 17 chiefs of staff attended IDEX 2003. According to analysts, defence spending in the six Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar is expected to increase, more so in the wake of the September 11 events and the tension in the Middle East. The Gulf countries spent some $30 billion in 1998 on defence and security. This is steadily rising as military spending accounts for about 10 percent of their GDP, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.