The Korea Herald


India highlights growing defense industry

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : July 9, 2024 - 14:38

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Indian Ambassador to Korea Amit Kumar speaks at “India-ROK Defense Industry Cooperation Seminar” held on Thursday in Seoul. (Embassy of India in Seoul) Indian Ambassador to Korea Amit Kumar speaks at “India-ROK Defense Industry Cooperation Seminar” held on Thursday in Seoul. (Embassy of India in Seoul)

The Indian Embassy in Seoul highlighted the country’s growing defense sector at a seminar held Thursday to explore defense industry cooperation between the two countries.

Indian Ambassador to South Korea Amit Kumar said there has been a steady increase in defense cooperation and such bilateral exchange will be expanded under the common goal of securing peace in the region.

At the 10th ROK-India Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) in March 2024, India and Korea committed to advancing the second phase of the K-9 self-propelled howitzer (called the K9 Vajra in India) project. The meeting, chaired by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul, was the first since 2018.

The JCM, established in 2002, serves as a comprehensive consultative body involving representatives from India and Korea.

Korea, aspiring to be a global pivotal state, views the Indo-Pacific as crucial for the global GDP and maritime transport. India views Korea as an indispensable partner in its "Act East" strategy to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the Indo-Pacific region.

Korea's outreach to India remains limited, however, compared to other regional partners, according to industry experts.

Currently ranked third globally in defense spending after the US and China, India is the world's largest arms importer. The Indian defense market is projected to grow from $17 billion to $25 billion by 2029, according to Kumar.

Despite recognizing India's potential to reduce its reliance on China and its nonaligned diplomacy, Korean companies still prefer investing in China, Singapore and Vietnam over India, they said. Nonetheless, Korea has seen India as a key market for defense exports in the last few years, supported by a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) stating the country is one of the largest arms importers globally.

India traditionally depended heavily on Russia for half of its arms imports. However, due to the war in Ukraine and disruptions in the supply of Russian-made parts, India is now diversifying its sources of arms imports and increasing its defense spending.

Korean defense industry insiders perceive India as an appealing market, seeing its potential for growth in defense partnerships.

According to Kumar, India’s Defense Ministry has established a single-window agency called the Defense Investor Cell for investor queries, to stimulate the defense export authorization process. It has also launched two major defense industrial corridors similar to the Changwon Defense Industry cluster in Korea.

“In 2021, we rolled out the scheme for iDEX, or ‘Innovations for Defense Excellence’ to engage start-ups and MSMEs to develop innovative and indigenous defense technologies and solutions for the Indian military,” said Kumar. MSMEs refers to micro, small and medium enterprises.

India's defense industry ecosystem, according to Kumar, has seen the emergence of over 14,000 MSMEs and nearly 350 start-ups engaged in defense production.

Kumar also pointed to joint ventures between India and Korea for weapon systems, citing General Electric's plans to co-produce F414 engines for fighter aircraft in India and the K9 Vajra Project, a joint venture between Hanwha Aerospace and L&T in India, as models.

“We encourage Korean companies to invest in India’s defense sector for product improvement, new product development and to supplement their supply chains,” said Kumar.

India also plans to participate in the Korea Army International Defense Exhibition, the largest defense exhibition in October, he added.

Speakers at Thursday's seminar also included Col. Ashish Gairola, the defense attache at the embassy and Choi Byung-ro, vice president of the Korea Defense Industry Association (KDIA).