DefExpo 2018, Chennai, India, 11-14 April 2018

DefExpo 2018 Opens in Chennai, India

India Positioning Itself as Defence Industry Manufacturer

Formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s premiere defence exhibition, DefExpo 2018, kicked off in Chennai on Wednesday, April 11. Despite a fall in participating companies, the Indian government has high hopes of the event signalling India’s first serious attempt to project itself as a major military manufacturer.

While showcasing the strengths of India’s public sector, it will also uncover India’s growing private industry and spreading MSME base for components and sub-systems.
– Indian Ministry of Defence

Declining International Participation Mars DefExpo 2018

With only around 677 exhibitors, DefExpo 2018 has been overshadowed by DSA 2018, taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary Defence Production of the MOD told reporters in a briefing in Delhi last week that “The overall participation this time is 10% lower than last time.”

Most of those exhibiting are Indian companies. The previous DefExpo held in Goa in 2016 attracted over 230 foreign companies, compared to only 154 this year.

Indian Defence Industry Struggling To Increase Exports

India’s Ministry of Defence has spub this to its advantage, arguing that the predominance of Indian companies at the international event is an indication that India has now developed its own significant manufacturing base. However, the Indian defence industry is facing several setbacks, with major strategic projects, such as the Project 75-I submarines, being put on hold.

India’s Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, addressed a meeting of India’s 44 defence attaches from missions abroad on Monday, aiming at bolstering India’s defence co-operation with foreign countries. She spoke about expanding defence manufacturing in India and stressed that the attaches needed to engage more with all stakeholders in the defence sector, including DPSUs, to expand broader defence co-operation links, including defence exports. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, however, in one of their reports recently tabled in Parliament had said that most of the DPSUs (being the primary builders of defence equipment in India) have not had much exports in the past few years.

India’s annual spending on defence imports was US$42.9bn over 2000-2016, compared to only US$314m in defence exports over the same period. To address this, DefExpo will also feature two major international colloboration events: the Joint Commission with South Korea and the Military Industry Co-operation with Russia.

DefExpo will also feature live demonstrations of naval, air and land systems, including displays by the Tejas light combat aircraft, light utility helicopter and Arjun tanks. The exhibition ends on 14 April.