India has exported defence items worth more than Rs 38,000 crore in the past seven years and the country hopes to become an overall net exporter soon, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday.
"We have an estimated Rs 85,000 crore industry of aerospace and defence. The contribution of the private sector in this has increased to Rs 18,000 crore," he said in his speech at the MSME conclave of the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM).
Singh urged the MSMEs to invest more in research and development as it would help strengthen the nation's security.
"You should bring new technologies, new products. You should not think that just because of your small, you cannot do great innovation," he added.
Around 12,000 MSMEs have joined the defence industry due to the government's initiatives, he added.
"Defence exports from India during the last seven years have been of more than Rs 38,000 crore due to the government's initiatives," he noted.
Innovation, research and development and the number of startups have increased in the defence industry due to these initiatives, Singh said.
Reiterating the government's focus on encouraging exports, the minister expressed hopes that India will soon become a net exporter from a net importer.
"The government aims to achieve the export target of Rs 35,000 crore by 2024-25. Presently, India is exporting defence equipment to around 70 countries. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2020 report, India is in the list of top 25 countries in defence exports," he said.
The Indian armed forces have completely supported the self-reliance initiative of the government, he stated.
"Therefore, the number of contracts given to indigenous defence industry has increased," he said.
Singh accepted that the big companies have a major role to play in defence manufacturing but the reality is that the work of numerous small companies is hidden behind that of big companies.
"Big defence platforms are assembled from numerous small parts and most of them are provided by the MSMEs," he noted.
"Therefore, I believe that the term industry' really means MSMEs as they are not only responsible for economic activities but also for societal progress," he added.