By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

DEFENSE EQUIPMENT. Filipino and Indian delegates interact during the first-ever India-Philippines defense industry seminar at the Shangri-La The Fort on Friday (Feb. 16, 2024). The Indian Embassy-led event also featured a B2B component where attendees discussed business opportunities in the sector. (PNA photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – The Indian government has brought to Manila a business delegation to showcase its homegrown military technologies and equipment and scope out possible defense industry tie-ups with the Philippines.

At the Indian Embassy-led defense industry seminar in Makati City on Friday, at least 18 Indian companies presented to Filipino stakeholders and officials of the Department of National Defense a number of possible defense exports, ranging from aircrafts, drones, helicopters down to artificial intelligence-based technologies.

“Like India, Philippines has to devote the bulk of its resources to development programs. So our share for national security, which is also a pressing requirement, is always constrained,” Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said.

“So within that constraint framework, if you’re looking at a realistic option, then I would suggest that India is a very good option,” he added, citing the cutting-edge technology and competitive prices Indian defense equipment can offer.

Among the companies present were DCM Shriram Industries Ltd, Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Mahindra Emirates Vehicle Armouring FZ LLC, MKU Limited, and Adani Defence Systems and Technologies Limited.

In the same event, Kumaran expressed hope that New Delhi could be part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ third phase of modernization, citing its successful deal on the BrahMos cruise missile system that he said would be delivered “soon”.

“We obviously had a successful conclusion of contract on missile systems. We hope that this could be considered,” he said.

“We have naval systems, we have fighter aircraft, we have a broad range of capabilities on the Indian side — helicopters, attack helicopters, land systems, artillery systems — and some of those would match with the capabilities you are looking to acquire in the Horizon 3,” he added.

Horizon 3 was initially scheduled from 2023 to 2028 while Horizon 2 was from 2018 to 2022.

The business-to-business component of the event also opened up possible opportunities for partnerships on capacity building, especially as the Philippines seeks to create a self-reliant defense posture.

On this aspect, Kumaran said India is committed to “walk the talk” and help the Philippines enhance its capabilities.

“As two democracies, India and the Philippines have to work together to ensure that we create a regional and global environment that will allow us to address the fundamental requirements of our two nations — that is to create the enabling environment for our countries to grow,” he said.

“We are both peaceful nations. We do not crave other people’s territory, other people’s waters, but we will not see efforts that try to limit our access to our territory and our resources either. So we have to go beyond the talk,” he added.

‘On the table’

Kumaran also reaffirmed that India’s loan offer to help the country fund its defense modernization is still on the table.

“Our offer is very much on the table. We have announced our intent to offer a soft loan for defense procurements and this could also cover activities that would eventually extend to some sort of joint industrial activity,” he said.

The line of credit being offered by India is a soft loan provided on concessional interest rates to developing countries based on the national priorities of the borrowing countries.

The broad terms of the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) line credits are 1.75 percent, with a 20-year tenor and five-year moratorium.

Over the past years, interactions on defense and security between India and the Philippines have been on the upswing.

In a bilateral meeting in 2023, the two nations sought to further upgrade official level interaction among defense agencies and expand training and joint exercises on maritime security and disaster response. (PNA)