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DefExpo 2022 goes to Gandhinagar, focus on projecting India as manufacturing hub

The biennial show will be held in Gandhinagar from March 11-13, the department of defence production announced on Friday.
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2021 06:56 PM IST
File photo: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath checks a gun held by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the 11th edition of DefExpo in Lucknow. (Nand Kumar / PTI)

India’s flagship military exhibition, DefExpo, will be held at Gandhinagar in Gujarat in March 2022, with a focus on projecting the country as an emerging defence manufacturing hub, one of the top priorities for the government in the defence sector, officials familiar with the developments said.

The biennial show will be held in Gandhinagar from March 11-13, the department of defence production announced on Friday. It comes at a time when the government has sharpened its focus on promoting self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector and positioning India as an exporter of military hardware.

In May, the government notified a list of 108 defence items that cannot be imported by the armed forces with the ban kicking off from December 2021. The list, called the ‘positive indigenisation list’, will be implemented progressively from December 2021 to December 2025.

This was the second such list to be notified by the government in less than a year. In August 2020, the government prepared a list of 101 items on which there would be an embargo on import to give a push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (self-reliant India movement). The embargo for items in the first list, then called ‘negative import list’, kicked in for different items last year and will run through till 2025.

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DefExpo was traditionally held in Delhi until 2014 after which it has seen a string of new venues - Goa (2016), Chennai (2018) and Lucknow (2020). The venue was shifted to Goa when late Manohar Parrikar was the defence minister, it moved to Chennai when Nirmala Sitharaman held the portfolio and it was staged in Lucknow with Rajnath Singh as the defence minister.

Defence manufacturing firms from across the world participated in the five-day mega event held in Lucknow last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated DefExpo-2020, attended by ministers from almost 40 foreign countries.

From raising foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing to creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware and notifying two lists of weapons/equipment that cannot be imported, the government has taken a raft of measures to boost self-reliance in the defence sector over the last two years.

The first list included artillery guns, missile destroyers, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, light transport aircraft, long-range land-attack cruise missiles, communication satellites, basic trainer aircraft, multi-barrel rocket launchers, a variety of radars, assault rifles, sniper rifles, mini-UAVs and different types of ammunition.

The second list consists of several military systems including specified types of helicopters, next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning and Control (AEW&C) systems, tank engines, medium power radar for mountains, medium-range surface to air missile systems and anti-material rifles.

India has set aside 70,221 crore this year for domestic defence procurement, accounting for 63% of the military’s capital budget. Last year, the ministry spent over 51,000 crore, or 58% of the capital budget, on domestic purchases.

India’s arms imports fell 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20, said a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in March.

The report on international arms transfers attributed the drop in India’s arms imports mainly to an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms and complex procurement processes.

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