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New Delhi Seeks Role as Major Africa Arms Exporter: Army Veterans

© Photo : Indian ArmyAfrica-India Joint Military Exercise AFINDEX 2023 at Pune. The exercise is focused on Humanitarian Mine Action and Peace Keeping Operations under the UN mandate.
Africa-India Joint Military Exercise AFINDEX 2023 at Pune. The exercise is focused on Humanitarian Mine Action and Peace Keeping Operations under the UN mandate. - Sputnik India, 1920, 22.03.2023
India and troops from 23 African countries are currently engaged in military drills in Pune, officially known as AFINDEX 2023.
India is seeking to emerge as one of the major arms exporters to African nations, two Army veterans have told Sputnik.
Their comments came in the wake of the massive combat exercise held by India and 23 African nations in Pune (Maharashtra), titled AFINDEX 2023, which look to expand military cooperation between New Delhi and African states.

Opportunity to Showcase Made-in-India Arms

According to Major General (Retd.) P.K Sehgal, the exercise is a very significant development because India is not only showing the military prowess of its armed forces, but also helping African nations to tone up their own capabilities.

"It is giving India an extreme opportunity to showcase the Made-in-India weapon systems, which are proving to be far, far better than the cheaper weapons, which are competitive in terms of cost, while there is also an assured maintenance backup by the Indian industry," the former Indian Army officer opined.

Sehgal asserted that India's move to conduct military exercises with a group of African nations was essentially a step designed to compete with China's growing influence in the region. Even though India is a late starter, it is now making sure that this outreach does manage to change the narrative toward Indian as an arms supplier.
"India wants to emerge as one of the major arms exporters to these countries. We are now saying that within the next five years or by 2025 we want to be a major exporter to the tune of about $5 billion," he added.

Maj. Gen. Sehgal elaborated that India not only wants to export major arms or weapons like the BrahMos missile, radars, helicopters, and LCA Tejas, etc. but also wishes to be a major weapons supplier in terms of ammunition and grenades, among others.

A kilo class Indian submarine participates in the final rehearsal of International Fleet review in Vishakapatnam, India, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. - Sputnik India, 1920, 16.03.2023
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Sehgal stated that India was already supplying weapons to almost 80 to 100 countries.

"We are wanting to target the African countries in a major way because these countries don't have deep pockets. They want something which is affordable, reliable, resilient and which is transparent in totality and there are no debt traps of any sort and there are no conditions attached," he pointed out.

Military Diplomacy with Global South

Another former Indian Army officer, Maj Gen (Dr.) Ashok Kumar, argued that the significance of the ongoing exercises in Pune is very large in relation to the India-Africa defense partnership, more so in the context of the Global South.
"India has focused on military diplomacy of late. In military diplomacy, the conduct of joint exercises with partner nations and export of own defense equipment are two major pillars," Dr. Kumar said in a conversation with Sputnik.
Like Sehgal, Kumar noted that besides indigenization, India has also focused on defense exports.

"India also attaches special significance to African nations and wants to be a committed partner of growth [...] and towards this, India made special provision for the attendance of African nations' representatives in the latest defense expo which was recently held in Gujarat," Kumar, a veteran of the Kargil war elaborated.

He reckoned that during the current exercise, the African countries will be able to see India's military prowess and capability. This will develop deep trust between India and these nations for future defense partnerships.