New Delhi:  At a prestigious exhibition that seeks to project India as one of the major defence manufacturing hubs, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the army was free to buy defence equipment from anywhere in the world. The four-day DefExpo at Thiruvidanthai, near Chennai, is showcasing land, naval and internal homeland security systems.

The minister said she can't "force the forces" to buy only Made in India equipment. While it would be nice if that were to happen, the armed forces were at liberty to pick and choose the equipment they need from anywhere in the world, she said.

While India's military remains the world's biggest buyer of defence equipment, the country is aspiring to become a key manufacturer and eventually an exporter.

To that end, the emphasis at the DefExpo this year is to showcase India's prowess at successfully manufacturing defence systems - a shift from offering foreign firms to showcase products that India could buy.Today, the minister said there are "demands" from a few foreign countries to buy missiles from India, but declined to reveal any names. "There would be more opportunities than challenges" to help the country's defence manufacturers earn, she added.