Thun­der amidst the Tem­ples

The De­fExpo 2018 at Kancheep­u­ram

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Vayu -

The bi­en­nial De­fExpo Land, Naval & In­ter­nal Home­land Se­cu­rity Sys­tems Ex­hi­bi­tion 2018 was held “in the land of a thou­sand tem­ples” in south­ern In­dia, specif­i­cally at Kancheep­u­ram on the Coro­man­del coast. Con­sid­er­ing the short time given to or­gan­is­ers in an rather un­likely lo­ca­tion, the event was pulled off with sat­is­fac­tory re­sults. In her Press Con­fer­ence, De­fence Min­is­ter Ms Nir­mala Sitharaman jus­ti­fied this new lo­ca­tion while Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi came the next day to ad­dress the mam­moth crowd in his char­ac­ter­is­tic or­a­tor­i­cal style. The In­dian De­fence In­dus­try showed their wares while the de­fence forces demon­strated some of their prow­ess on the beach ( see Cover).

This time around, the bi­en­nial De­fExpo Land, Naval & In­ter­nal Home­land Se­cu­rity Sys­tems Ex­hi­bi­tion was held in the land of a thou­sand tem­ples in south­ern In­dia, specif­i­cally at Arul­migu Nithyakalyana Peru­mal Tem­ple, Thiru­vi­dan­thai, Thiru­porur Taluk, Kancheep­u­ram, on the Coro­man­del coast of south­ern In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to the De­fence Min­istry, over 670 firms, in­clud­ing 154 for­eign OEMs, par­tic­i­pated in this ex­hi­bi­tion, whose dates and lo­ca­tion had of­fi­cially only been an­nounced a lit­tle over two months be­fore the event. This nat­u­rally re­sulted in fren­zied or­gan­i­sa­tional ac­tiv­ity, which true to the In­dian tra­di­tion of be­ing “JIT”, was pulled off with sur­pris­ing re­sults, and the ob­vi­ous short­com­ings ac­cepted with pa­tience. Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited who took on the man­tle of or­gan­is­ing this De­fExpo, did a Her­culean job !

How­ever, un­like dur­ing past De­fEx­pos, there was no in­au­gu­ral cer­e­mony but in­stead on Day One, De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sitharaman held an ex­pect­edly well-at­tended Press Con­fer­ence, along­side RRM Sub­has Bhamre. They were flanked on the stage by all se­nior de­fence min­istry bu­reau­crats, in­clud­ing DRDO’s Dr S Christo­pher,

De­fence Sec­re­tary San­jay Mit­tra and Dr Ajay Kumar, Sec­re­tary De­fence Pro­duc­tion. In her char­ac­ter­is­tic and cryptic style, the Min­is­ter fielded ques­tions in English, Hindi – and fre­quently in Tamil, which was per­haps un­der­stand­able con­sid­er­ing the lo­cale. Upon be­ing ques­tioned on the choice of the venue as Kanchipu­ram in Chen­nai, Nir­mala Sitharaman stated that this was “a con­scious de­ci­sion. Of the two de­fence cor­ri­dors in In­dia re­cently an­nounced, one is in south­ern In­dia, be­ing a swath be­tween Chen­nai and Coimbatore and also in Western UP. His­tor­i­cally too, this was from where the an­cient ships of the Cho­las set sail to South­east Asia.”

Pre- empt­ing some crit­i­cism, Mrs Nir­mala Sitharaman de­fended the to­tal count of par­tic­i­pants at De­fExpo which must take into ac­count the nu­mer­ous en­ti­ties of DRDO and left it at that. The two dis­tinct fea­tures of this year’s edi­tion were the “clear ac­cent” on In­dian de­fence com­pa­nies vis-àvis for­eign par­tic­i­pants, who were du­ti­fully show­cas­ing their prod­ucts at De­fExpo. As many ‘Made in In­dia’ prod­ucts were re­ceiv­ing sup­port for ex­port, the Min­is­ter hoped that In­dia would soon be emerg­ing as a ma­jor de­fence-man­u­fac­tur­ing hub. Se­lect DPSUs, in­clud­ing HAL, BEL, and those un­der the aegis of the DRDO, who are en­gaged in independent R&D, have the po­ten­tial of ac­quir­ing “so many patents.” The De­fence Min­is­ter also ar­tic­u­lated how much she felt “ex­treme pride” in show­cas­ing these.

Tak­ing ques­tions from the au­di­ence, pa­tiently man­aged by the DPR Ms Ra­jshekhar, Nir­mala Sitharaman walked the diplo­matic thin ice in con­text of in­dige­nous pro­duc­tion ver­sus im­port of for­eign weapon sys­tems. “When I am pro­mot­ing In­dian ex­ports and In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ing, I am also telling the forces to pro­cure from them. They do too. But I would want to draw a thin line –and I am con­scious that it is a thin line – be­tween the gov­ern­ment’s en­thu­si­asm on mak­ing sure the pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties are such that they can meet with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and be ex­port­wor­thy; and the other side of the line where the Army or the Navy or the Air Force make their de­ci­sion on what they want, what com­bi­na­tion of equip­ment they want and in that com­bi­na­tion, if an In­dian-pro­duced item fits in.”

“I can only go that far and not fur­ther, just as they can go that far and not any fur­ther with­out com­pro­mis­ing each oth­ers’ in­ter­est–and my in­ter­est is not dif­fer­ent from theirs, be­cause af­ter all the MoD has to take care of the forces as much as the de­fence pro­duc­tion as­pect,” she ad­mit­ted.

As ex­pected, there were sev­eral ques­tions on the re­cent RFI is­sued for pro­cure­ment of 110 fight­ers for the In­dian Air Force but these were smartly de­flected by the De­fence Min­is­ter to her De­fence Sec­re­tary, who con­tin­u­ally evaded a clear cut re­sponse, sim­ply re­peat­ing that “this was too early.” (Con­sid­er­ing that the IAF have been strug­gling for near two decades to iden­tify op­tions to aug­ment their fast de­plet­ing com­bat strength, this is as much an un­der­state­ment as it gets ! Ed)

Now, Day Two of De­fExpo 2018 saw the of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, who ar­rived at the show amidst thun­der­ing ap­plause. There was a posse of min­is­ters from the Min­istry of De­fence, the Tamil Nadu leg­is­la­ture as well as the three Chiefs from the Army, Navy and Air Force, all of whom joined the thou­sands present in the make-shift hall when the in­vo­ca­tion Neer­aarum Kadaludutha (Tamil State an­them) was played: which had some eye­brows raised.

The Prime Min­is­ter elec­tron­i­cally launched iDEX (In­no­va­tion for De­fence Ex­cel­lence), the en­tire event be­ing telecast live to mis­sions in sev­eral for­eign coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, Rus­sia, Ger­many, Italy, Nige­ria Bhutan, Nepal and other places.

The PM there­after ad­dressed the mam­moth crowd in his char­ac­ter­is­tic or­a­tor­i­cal style and bluntly crit­i­cised the pre­vi­ous UPA gov­ern­ment’s “lazi­ness, in­com­pe­tence or per­haps some hid­den mo­tives” for de­lays in de­fence pro­cure­ment. Mr Modi re- it­er­ated that “the present gov­ern­ment had ini­ti­ated a new process to pro­cure 110 fighter air­craft. We do not want to spend ten years in discussions with­out any tan­gi­ble out­come…but, we do not want to take short cuts.”

In an­other dig at the UPA, the PM said the “pol­icy paral­y­sis” that had set in the de­fence sec­tor was a thing of the past and “it shall not hap­pen again.” Ad­dress­ing con­cerns of the in­dus­try, Modi em­pha­sised: “Our goal is not merely to tin­ker but to trans­form. We want to move fast, but with no short­cuts... I am aware we need to do a lot more, we are com­mit­ted to do so”, even as he promised ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with all stake­hold­ers—both In­dian and for­eign com­pa­nies. The PM con­cluded that “Dreams must be trans­formed into thoughts, and thoughts into ac­tions.”

In­vi­tees then trooped out to the nearby ‘Demon­stra­tion Area’ on the nearby beach to wit­ness fly­pasts by HAL-built air­craft even as tanks and guns churned up the sand and war­ships sailed off­shore with some aplomb.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.