Swedish-India defence cooperation on the upswing
Minister of Defence for India, Rajnath Singh, and his Swedish counterpart, Minister for Defence, Peter Hultqvist reaffirmed their countries’ close and long-standing bilateral relations and their growing partnership, especially in the field of defence where there is a great scope for industrial cooperation.
Rajnath Singh invited leading Swedish defence majors to set up manufacturing bases in India as he showcased the country as an attractive destination for investment to produce military equipment and platforms. In an address at a virtual conference on India-Sweden defence industry cooperation on June 8, he said the government has initiated several reforms to help the defence industries serve not only Indian requirements but also meet global demands.
Addressing the webinar hosted by the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said that the Swedish government will continue to work with the Indian government to support increased exchanges, and research and innovation between the defence industries of the two countries.
“The Make in India concept provides excellent opportunities for cooperation that would serve both our countries’ interests. The ongoing multi-role fighter aircraft procurement where the Gripen fighter concept offered by Saab is a good example of transfer of technologies and is supported 100 per cent by the Swedish government,” Hultqvist said. He reminded the Indian government that Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had conveyed the same message to Prime Minister Modi during an online bilateral summit in March this year.
Mr Rajnath Singh acknowledged that Swedish firms such as Saab already have a major presence in India with several technical collaborations with the Indian industry. He invited Swedish firms to invest in the dedicated defence corridors of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where they can benefit from government incentives along with the availability of a highly skilled workforce in India.
The Indian Defence Minister also mentioned allowing up to 74 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) through automatic route and up to 100 per cent through government route in the defence manufacturing sector. He said the technology-centric FDI policy will enable Indian industries to collaborate with Swedish industries in the field of niche and proven military technologies.
Mr Hultqvist also welcomed the successful outcome of the EU-India leaders meeting in May 2021, where it was agreed to resume negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). An FTA between EU and India would open great opportunities for business on both sides, he said and added that few other countries can match India in its potential for creativity, innovation and growth.
Saab has already expressed its interest in the Indian Air Force tender to acquire 114 multi-role fighter aircraft worth over $15 billion. The Gripen fighter jets will be largely developed locally as part of the Make-in-India drive to build a global defence manufacturing hub in India. Saab is completely aligned with the ‘Make in India’ policy of the Indian government and plans to build a production line in India to meet all requirements of the Indian Air Force.