Letter from the Editor | February 2023

The good news is that Aero India 2023 kept its date with both February and Bengaluru; this continuity is deeply reassuring. The bad news is that DefExpo, which since 2016 has been kicked around like an afterhours football both in terms of month and venue, had its 2022 edition in Ahmedabad in October. Originally, the show was to be held in Ahmedabad in March 2022, but for reasons best known to the government, it was postponed a week before it was to start. So effectively, only three months separate India’s two international defence and aerospace shows. Why this is bad news is obvious. But it is not for us to question why. What government wants, government does.

So, here we are with the Aero India special issue. While we do look at the new technologies which are likely to be the focus of the show, the key issue is India’s quest for self-reliance, which after wading through ‘Make in India’ is currently enjoying its day in the sun as Aatmanirbharta. Such is the power of Indian market, that even the global original equipment manufacturers have mastered this tongue twister and say it effortlessly. In fact, no interaction is ever complete without Aatmanirbhar Bharat appearing a few times.

Hence, it is only reasonable that we put this assertion to test. Where exactly are we in respect to self-reliance in defence, notwithstanding the two negative import lists issued by the ministry of defence. The picture is not as pretty as one would have imagined given the omnipresence of the slogan. As our articles point out, for critical platforms and technologies, India will have to look outside its borders, either as direct imports or collaboration with foreign OEMs as technology partners. It is true that medium and small sector Indian enterprises, especially those helmed by young engineers have a lot of intellectual and technical potential, but they are caught in the deadly web woven by well-entrenched public sector behemoths. Minor tweaking or renaming of policies will not change anything. Worse, they reassure the non-performers that their exalted position remains unchallenged, because the policymakers neither have the time nor imagination to cope with the upset apple cart.

Within these constraints, we bring you updates from the defence industry, along with their viewpoints and the challenges before India’s defence industrial complex. Offsetting the overdose of defence industry, is the books section and a thought-provoking column by conscience-keeper Nandita Haksar who links refugee protection with the most basic of human rights. Read on.

As an aside, FORCE is media partner for Aero India. Readers in Bengaluru can find us in Hall F, stand FS3.5. Apart from copies of FORCE, our books—Dragon On Our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power, Born A Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India and The Last War: How AI Will Shape India’s Final Showdown With China—will also be available there. Those looking for signed copies, do visit us.


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