The stage is all set for India’s showpiece defence exhibition, DefExpo, to take place from April 11 to 18 at Thiruvidanthai on the East Coast Road (ECR) near Chennai to attract global vendors of military equipment in large numbers. The Ministry of Defence has been emphasising on attracting more Indian players into the defence manufacturing in order to promote self-reliability in the sector and this is expected to reflect at the Expo.
“We want to show case India as emerging hub for manufacturing as the country attained significant milestones in defence manufacturing. We also need to create opportunity for exports from India,” said Ajay Kumar, secretary, Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, Government of India. DefExpo, held once every two years in February, used to be held in New Delhi till 2014 when it was moved by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar to Goa where he promised a permanent venue. Now Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has taken it to Tamil Nadu.
In total, 701 exhibitors are expected to participate, including 539 Indian firms and 163 international firms. While this is the highest ever participation by Indian firms, there is a 10 per cent drop in terms of international participation, according to officials. Responding to this, Kumar said that the major international firms are participating in the exhibition. Around 72 per cent of the space is allocated for Indian exhibitors. The total area prepared for the exhibition is 2,90,000 sq.ft., which is the largest among all exhibitions so far. Around 20 per cent of the space is reserved for MSME.
In the previous expo, there were more than 1,000 companies, both foreign and Indian companies participating in the event, said an official release in March, 2016.
This year, Indian participation include majors like Tata, L&T, Kalyani, Bharat Forge, Mahindra, MKU, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), warship building firm Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL), Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI), Ordnance Factories, and many others.
Aiming to give impetus to start-ups, the ministry of defence will launch the Innovations for Defence Excellence (IDEX) scheme at the Expo.
It was unveiled earlier in the draft Defence Production policy.
Officials have said at the Indian Pavilion, over 70 indigenously built products will be displayed and it will be idle for defence and aerospace manufacturers to exhibit their latest technologies and products under the flagship Make in India programme. This edition will see the largest ever participation by Indian companies and for the very first time India Pavilion is being set up in DefExpo which will showcase combined strength of India’s Public sector and private sector in defence production.
Major international companies including Lockheed Martin, Boeing (USA), Saab (Sweden), Airbus, Rafael (France), Rosonboron Exports, United Shipbuilding (Russia), BAE Systems (UK), Sibat (Israel), Wartsila (Finland), Rhode and Schwarz (Germany) among many others will be participating in the event.
Reports stated that Maldives declined to send a ministerial-level delegation to the Expo, while China is yet to respond to the invitation.
The Expo will be showcasing India’s capabilities in land, naval, internal homeland security as well as its emergence as an attractive destination for investment in defence sector by providing a platform for alliances and joint ventures in the defence industry. 47 official delegations from different countries have confirmed their participation in DefExpo as on March 30, 2018. 13 of these delegations are at Ministerial level. Several countries have large delegations with over 10 delegates showing tremendous interest in DefExpo 2018. Ministerial level delegations are from countries including USA, UK, Afghanistan, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Seychelles, Vietnam will also participate in the event, which has become one of the largest events of its kind in the world for the last 10 years.
India is ranked the world’s top arms importer and the Defence Ministry said that Indian firms manufactured Rs 550 billion worth military equipment in the last year.
The huge arms buys that India has projected was the chief attraction for foreign vendors.
Defexpo is expected to be inaugurated first by the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on April 11 and the next day by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Also, there would be ‘live demonstrations’ by Indian Navy warships at sea, visible from the coast, by the Indian army at the venue. An India-South Korea joint commission would be meeting in New Delhi in the run-up to the exhibition. An India-Russia military-industry cooperation meeting would be held at the Defexpo venue on April 13. It is for the first time all three forces will be doing live demonstrations together, said Kumar. At the Russia India military industry cooperation, at least three to four agreements are expected to be signed
The exhibition will be held at land belonging to Arulmigu Nithyakalyana Perumal Temple at Thiruvidanthai in Thiruporur taluk in Kancheepuram district. The roads have been revamped and saplings have been planted on either side of the road to the destination. Workers are busy giving finishing touches to East Coast Road.