While inaugurating the Defexpo 2006 here, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee said India emerged as the largest arms importer among the developing nations in 2004 and said the country was keen on forging collaborations for export of Indian products. The minister outlined Indias ambitious plans to purchase combat jets and artillery guns to modernise the armed forces.
The government is encouraging joint ventures, co-production and co-marketing to improve the utilisation of our production units and to improve their capabilities, he said adding, with the support of our private sector, we aspire to bring in the latest technology, incorporate the same in the development of state of the defence products for our armed forces and also export them.
He said the government would soon issue request for proposals to buy 126 front line aircrafts for the Indian Air Force and take a decision on modernising the artillery by inducting hundreds of towed and self-propelled Howitzers.
Responding to questions, the minister said, If we can produce quality weapons systems that are competitively priced, there is possibility for exports.
However, the minister said there had been a lukewarm response from the private sector to the opening up of defence production to private investment. Pointing out that private companies had only submitted 26 letters of intent, he said, There has not been much response.
Private investment would not be seen from an ideological viewpoint and the government would welcome all, who offer competitive prices and efficient production, he said.
Some 420 companies from 31 countries, including the US, Israel, Russia and Britain, are taking part in Defexpo, jointly organised by the ministry of defence and the CII.