DefExpo 2016 is different from the earlier editions for a number of reasons. The most important being the concept of Make in India, where there is hope and anxiety at the same time. Hope, because the government has announced that it would co-opt the private industry in defence indigenisation. National defence industry is after all about both public and private sector industries and their partnership.
The raising of the Foreign Direct Investment in defence from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and the government’s commitment to raise it further in cases where there is actual transfer of technology, has increased possibilities of foreign OEMs participation in a big way. This is not all. India is an attractive market for foreign companies – it has requirements, finances to spend, and huge capacities and capabilities to cater for.
On the flip side, there is little clarity on policy. The new DPP which was expected to be announced one year ago is not in sight. In the absence of the DPP, there is hesitancy on the part of both foreign and Indian companies to plan decisively. It is hoped that the government would do the needful soon. Meanwhile, the list of requirements of the services has grown long, both because threats have increased, and, hardly any equipment has been inducted.
The DefExpo Special issue of FORCE focuses on the requirements of the land and naval forces. The issue puts together the needs of the army, navy, coast guard and the paramilitary forces in the context of their increased responsibilities. In addition, we also have articles which explain why certain capabilities are a must.
The other reason why this edition of DefExpo is different is the location. The show has been shifted from New Delhi to Goa, which has brought its own administrative and logistics issues. Hopefully, this transition is temporary and the Show will return to Delhi. As is the norm the world over, business exhibitions, to be taken seriously, must have a permanent location, which becomes synonymous with the Show. For instance, Paris Air Show is also referred to as Le Bourget, after its venue. Moreover, having been around for 18 years (this is the 9th edition of the biennial show), DefExpo should have been a mature exhibition with predictable facilities by now. It cannot be starting all over again, with the promise of improvement in the next edition.
Despite the misgivings, Goa as a destination calls for celebration. So let’s soak in the sun and the fun.