Source : The Print
Arjun Mark 1 MBT and Pinaka rocket launchers to easy line of credit — how India is wooing Africa for defence exports
New Delhi: India has extended a line of credit touching nearly $14 billion to 42 nations in the African Union and is looking at increasing the funds to support the defence capacity of countries in the region, besides traditional sectors like railways, ports and roads.
Government sources told ThePrint that India “has no qualms in being a true development partner for the African Union”, which has 55 countries as its members, and that “India has a policy of partnering and having a joint development strategy that benefits the local people”.
Sources explained that Africa needs a strong security and defence environment and India is more than willing to partner with the countries in the region for the same. They also said that India has been generous in offering the line of credit, which can be used to fund defence expenditure by the African nations.
Both India and Africa see a big potential in defence partnership, which they believe will grow fast.
“The whole thing is about cooperation. We have just started the engagement and we are taking stock of areas we can cooperate in,” Kenyan army chief Lt-Gen Peter Mbogo Njiru told ThePrint when asked about what was transpiring between Africa and India in the defence sector.
Lt-Gen Njiru was in India last week along with nine other army chiefs of African countries as well as senior military officers from 31 countries in the region to take part in the first India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave in Pune.
“Discussions have been extremely beneficial. This will further strengthen defence cooperation,” Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande said, replying to a query by ThePrint.
Multiple African officers ThePrint spoke to in Pune said they agreed there was a lot of defence equipment they are interested in, especially armoured vehicles and specific air defence systems. However, some were also open about wanting a favourable line of credit for the same.
At the conclave, in which various security dynamics were discussed, a key focus area was the display of India-made military equipment — from indigenous Arjun battle tank to specialised armoured vehicles manufactured by private companies like Tata Group and Kalyani Group, to artillery guns including the Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers and small arms like India-made Israeli rifles like Tavor and Negev light machine guns.
Private company representatives at the event said that Africa did provide a huge market for their products and they were already in talks for sale of equipment.
“Africa is a huge potential market. Indian products are of better quality and durability than Chinese ones and much cheaper than what western countries will charge. While the government will push (for Indian products), it is the private sector that really has to push hard. The government is always there to facilitate,” a source in the defence establishment told ThePrint.
India and the African nations last month also conducted a joint army exercise — the Africa-India Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX-2023) — where majority of the equipment used was of Indian origin, including unmanned bomb disposal vehicles, load-carrying vehicles and drones.
‘Aiming to empower our African friends’
India has been wooing Africa for quite a few years now and has already made inroads into the continent with sale of certain air defence systems, small arms, anti-drone technology, firing range simulators, among others.
Since 2020, India has also been hosting the Indo-Africa Defence Ministers’ Conference on the sidelines of the Defence Expo every alternate year.
Last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addressed the African army chiefs in Pune and described capacity-building in terms of defence equipment and platforms as another critical aspect of India’s military cooperation with its Africa partners.
He asked them to explore Indian defence equipment and technologies to fulfill their security needs.
“India has emerged as a leading defence exporter in recent years. A defence manufacturing ecosystem has been created here which has the advantage of abundant technical manpower. The Indian defence industry can work with you to fulfil your defence requirements,” he said.
“With the aim to empower our African friends to indigenously meet their defence requirements, we are also committed to sharing our expertise and knowledge in defence manufacturing, research and development,” he added.
India has been focussing on increasing its defence exports and they have already reached an all-time high of Rs 15,920 crore in the financial year 2022-23.
The Modi government had in 2020 set an ambitious target of Rs 35,000 crore ($5 billion) export in aerospace, and defence goods and services for the next five years. This was part of the Rs 1.75 lakh crore ($25 billion) turnover in defence manufacturing that the government is aiming to achieve by 2025.
China, on the other hand, has been focusing on deepening its own defence cooperation with Africa. According to Boston University’s Global Development Centre, the nation has between 2000 and 2020 publicly signed 27 loan deals with eight African countries worth about $3.5 billion for defence spending.