Airshow – European arms sellers look to get foot back in India’s door

European defence firms, aiming to catch up with U.S. and Russian rivals that dominate the sector in India, are pursuing supply deals by agreeing to more generous technology transfer and local manufacturing terms. Europe’s share of defence sales to India, the world’s top arms importer, slid to less than 4 percent in 2013 from more than a fifth in 2005, data from think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed. With the country estimated by analysts to spend $250 billion over the next decade to modernise its armed forces, defence contractors across the globe are queuing up to get a piece of the pie. But India has stipulated that for winning defence deals, foreign firms give domestic companies access to more advanced technologies they can use in India, rather than simply outsourcing basic assembly work. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi told an audience at the Aero India airshow that his government would cut down on imports by welcoming in foreign firms who transferred technology to local companies through his “Make in India” campaign. European firms are hoping to cash in on this shift towards indigenous development. Sweden’s Saab, for instance, is in talks with two Indian dockyards about a joint bid for an upcoming submarine tender that would need to be built in India, and is also offering to manufacture a short-range air defence system in the country, said Deputy CEO, Mr. Lennart Sindahl. “We are very open to transfer technology, to sharing intellectual property rights with India,” he said on the sidelines of the airshow. France-based Airbus Group is looking at potential Indian partners for a bid to make close to 200 light utility helicopters for the Indian Navy and Air Force. It emerged as the sole bidder for a $2 billion replacement programme for India’s Avro cargo aircraft last year that would see Tata Advanced Systems manufacture and assemble 40 of the firm’s C295 transport planes within India. Airbus Group India President Yves Guillaume said U.S. and Russian sellers had benefited from government-to-government lobbying that Europe struggled to match. “It’s been difficult for us to compete with them,” he told Reuters. According to SIPRI data, U.S., Russian and Israeli sales made up about 95 percent of all arms exports to India in 2013. French firm MBDA, meanwhile, is pitching its Maitri surface-to-air missile programme at this week’s airshow to clinch a long-stalled multi-billion dollar deal that would require it to co-develop the missile alongside Indian researchers.

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