Arms sales: India zeroes in on African markets

Dalip Singh | Updated on: May 20, 2022
The delegation will interact with Tanzanian defence minister and the armed forces to pitch for Indian-manufactured equipment

The delegation will interact with Tanzanian defence minister and the armed forces to pitch for Indian-manufactured equipment | Photo Credit: wenjin chen

Team heading to Tanzania

Attempting to tap into the large African arms market, a delegation of the Ministry of Defence, having representatives of top private manufacturers, is visiting Tanzania at the end of this month to explore opportunities for exporting military products and seek strategic cooperation.

The trip, scheduled on May 30, which will be the third recent visit to Africa after Kenya and Nigeria, also assumes significance due to the country’s long coast line along the Indian Ocean, which India wants to secure against China’s growing influence, said sources in the know.

Private players, including Tata Advanced Systems Limited, Adani, Larson and Toubro (L&T), Ashok Leyland, Bharat Forge and M Kumar Udyog (MKU) Limited, and defence PSUs such as Bharat Electronics Limited and Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited will be part of the visiting delegation of at least 20 members.

‘Good opportunity’

The companies will interact with Tanzanian defence minister Stergomena Tax and the top brass of their armed forces to pitch for Indian manufactured equipment in armoured vehicles, simulators, patrol boats, protective gears and drones, said sources. A list of requirements the Indian missions in Africa have shared with the ministry is the key for New Delhi to push for the move, said industry sources.

“African countries offer a good opportunity for private Indian defence industries. I’m looking forward to doing business with them, given our strong old ties with that part of the globe,” MKUL’s director Vaibhav Gupta told BusinessLine. The company has been selling protective gears to African countries.

India’s seriousness to build defence and strategic ties was also noticed after Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Mistri’s March tour of the east African nation, which is waging a tough battle against violent terrorist groups, including the Ansar Al Sunna Wal Jamaah (AASWJ). Tanzania wants to spend $2.7 trillion military budget for purchase of military hardware and software.

Arms race

India, which is encouraging Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiatives in the defence sector, is competing with Russia and China in the African arms market. Russia has the largest share, which according to Stockhholm International Peace Research Institute is about 44 per cent, and China's influence is growing mainly because of the cheap pricing, affordable payment schedules, ability to dump samples, and promotion of companies, said defence experts.

A private defence manufacturer, on the condition of anonymity, said the Centre still has to think through to emerge as an alternative to China. And the timing seems to be right, added the manufacturer. Africa is already facing certain uncertainty due to sanctions on Russia and China’s predatory way of dealing with smaller countries is getting exposed, he remarked.

“India can leverage affordable pricing and good quality military equipment to scale up its foothold in the African market, if the government gets more proactive,” said a representative of a company having experience of dealing with Africa. Other than that, the Centre should also sort out issues with lines of credit available to African nations, he stressed.

Published on May 20, 2022
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