COVID 19 Pandemic Curtails Aero India 2021 in a Three-day Event

Though the show would be focussed only on the business end, the government would be making all out efforts to attract foreign companies and countries to invest in Indian defence sector

By Sri Krishna

Aero India

New Delhi. In the backdrop of the pandemic COVID 19, which continues to claim lives in India, and continuing border tension with China in Eastern Ladakh and Pakistan on the Western border, the Aero India 2021 does assume immense significance for India and foreign participants.

With the Indian government focusing on Atmanirbhar Bharat, the show provides a platform for the Indian defence industry to showcase its wares and also explore the opportunities for tie ups with foreign counterparts.

The aerospace and defence exposition which has always attracted massive public attendance of upwards of 2.5 lakh daily on show days, the 13th edition of Aero India 2021 which is a big attraction in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru has now been reduced to just three days and that too only for business from February 3 onwards. This was done after a review meeting by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh taking into consideration the prevailing health scenario due to the pandemic COVID 19.

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The move comes in the light of concern by Health and Family Welfare Department of Karnataka government, which organises the show and is in charge of the local arrangements. It was worried over possible crowding at the venue, given that the show was scheduled from February 3 to 7, around the same time when experts believe the state could be battling a second wave of COVID 19 infections.

A total 14 countries have agreed to participate in the prestigious event, and in detailed meetings, experts have suggested the government ban public participation at the event.

Just as the countdown has begun for this massive event and various health measures were announced by the state government, the Defence Minister reviewed the planning of Aero India 2021 and decided to curtail it making it a three-day affair focussed on the business end while the public would have to see the show in a virtual mode.

The aerospace and defence exposition which has always attracted massive public attendance of upwards of 2.5 lakh daily on show days, the 13th edition of Aero India 2021 which is a big attraction in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru has now been reduced to just three days and that too only for business from February 3 onwards

The Department of Defence apprised the Minister that the event conforms to current international guidelines for exhibitions and that the event is planned to be a business focused exhibition.

The public, which is usually enthralled with the visuals of the air display, will witness this edition in virtual mode to make way for the safe in-person interactions between global aerospace and defence businesses so as to forge partnerships in the New Year.

“The event has witnessed tremendous interest with the space being sold out and 500+ registered exhibitors. In view of the challenges due to COVID 19, the Defence Minister directed that the event be held for business days only from February 3 to February 5, 2021 with the essence being to achieve traction for the aerospace and defence industry which has faced numerous challenges in the year 2020 due to lockdown and embargo/ restrictions on travel,” the defence ministry said in a statement.

Senior representatives of foreign missions at New Delhi were briefed in early October about Aero India 2021 well in advance with a view to encourage the presence of their leaders and senior most decision makers and thereafter formal invites were extended.

Just as the countdown has begun for this massive event and various health measures were announced by the state government, the Defence Minister reviewed the planning of Aero India 2021 and decided to curtail it making it a three-day affair focussed on the business end while the public would have to see the show in a virtual mode

Aero India 2021 promises to showcase India’s aerospace and defence manufacturing capabilities as also seek investments in India owing to a series of policy initiatives in defence such as increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to 74 per cent through automatic route, the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020, revised offset guidelines to promote Investment in India for co-development and co-production as also formulated the draft Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP 2020) during the pandemic period of 2020.

Though the show would be focussed only on the business end, the government would be making all out efforts to attract foreign companies and countries to invest in Indian defence sector.

Singh said that the Aero India 2021 would provide the much needed platform for boosting India’s resolve to be among the top five countries of the world in aerospace and defence manufacturing and the show is symbolic of India’s will to be a leader among leaders.

“Atmanirbhar Bharat was the centre-piece of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and that India’s Aerospace and Defence sector has matured and is continuously exploring mutually beneficial partnerships with friendly countries to set up industries in India for Indian-manufactured defence equipment for India and for the world,” Singh said.

He asked Indian missions be impressed upon to coordinate the efforts for the event and impress upon the leadership and industry captains of the foreign countries to participate in Aero India 2021 at a senior level so as to dive deep into the strategic and business opportunities available in India.

Despite the constraints due to the pandemic, the response to the show has been very encouraging as according to available figures there is a total of 517 exhibitors of which 448 are Indian and 69 foreign with booked space being 93 per cent with only one per cent available.

“Atmanirbhar Bharat was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision and that India’s Aerospace and Defence sector has matured and is continuously exploring mutually beneficial partnerships with friendly countries to set up industries in India for Indian-manufactured defence equipment for India and for the world,”
-Defence Minister Rajnath Singh

As part of the run up to the mega event, the Defence Ministry conducted a series of webinars from December 17 last year by leading luminaries and themed on contemporary defence and aerospace topics. The webinars were streamed worldwide.

The topics of the Webinars were of academic interest and relevance to the Defence, Aerospace and Security Industry and also to the academia and student fraternity.

With most of the defence public sector undertakings being based in Bengaluru like the leading aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), it would give the foreign companies interested in collaborating with Indian counterparts an opportunity to get firsthand knowledge of the advances made in the aerospace sector specially pertaining to defence.

-The writer is a senior journalist and media consultant

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