Aero India needs fresh infusion of ideas
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Short of Breath

Aero India needs fresh infusion of ideas

Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab

It could either be a dash of imagination or an act of desperation. Whatever it was, just a little more planning and inclusiveness would have turned Aero India into a grand statement. As it happened, inclusion of civil aviation in Aero India appeared to be an after-thought despite the presence of both the Union minister for civil aviation, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Jayant Sinha on the stage along with defence minister Manohar Parrikar.

In a show of great camaraderie and cooperation, both ministers jointly inaugurated the show, thereby bringing together defence and civil aviation on the same platform after nearly a decade of separation. Though organised by the ministry of defence, the rationale for combining the two was given by Raju, who in his inaugural speech said that the Indian airspace is both well-defended and well-exploited; implying a degree of convergence for both.

Logic apart, perhaps necessity also played a role in bringing the two together. With the global economic situation being what it is, and proliferation of defence aerospace shows (often overlapping one another) in the emerging markets worldwide, interest in Aero India has been waning amongst the foreign defence manufacturers. Add to this the still in-the-making defence procurement procedure (DPP); the frozen in time procurement programmes; the seeming fondness of the government for government to government (G to G) contracts as against direct commercial sales (DCS) which entails open competition; and the lack of clarity about ‘Make in India’. These are clearly ingredients for a concoction that would rightly attract more anxiety than enthusiasm. And lack of enthusiasm was evident at the inauguration when an entire stand was left vacant. Even in the area earmarked for the media, empty seats stood out like pockmarks.

In the coming few years, this situation is unlikely to change. With primacy being given to ‘Make in India’ in the defence programmes, which are likely to have a longer gestation than buying from global original equipment manufacturers (OEM), it seems only logical that the government would seek to meet immediate requirements through G to G contracts, bypassing global tendering. As a result, more companies will fall outside the realm of Indian procurement programmes, and participation at shows will diminish. Given these realities, the organisers will have to think of new ideas to ensure that Aero India remains a significant event on the international aerospace calendar.

Aero India needs fresh infusion of ideas

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