By Ajai Shukla
The defence ministry has confirmed to Business Standard that the defence trade show, Defexpo India 2016, will be held in Goa, not in Delhi, which hosted the first eight versions of the biennial show.
Defexpo India, which was last held in 2014 at the Pragati Maidan trade fair ground in Delhi, is organised by the defence ministry every alternate year, on even years. On odd years, the ministry organises the Aero India show in Bengaluru. There is no plan to shift future Aero India shows to Goa.
The 9th Land, Naval & Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibition – 2016, which is the full name of Defexpo India 2016, will be conducted from February 17-20. The Goa government has allocated land to set up exhibition infrastructure at Betul, about 24 kilometres from Margao, in South Goa.
Ministry officials emphasize the show is not being shifted because of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s affiliations with Goa, where he was chief minister before taking over the defence portfolio.
Instead, they say the show is being shifted because the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), the Ministry of Commerce and Industry body that owns the Pragati Maidan trade complex in Delhi, had warned the defence ministry last year that Pragati Maidan would be unavailable as a new convention centre would be coming up there.
The Defence Exhibition Organisation (DEO), which organises the defence ministry trade shows, had then approached the Goa government for land and facilitation to hold the show in Goa.
With the Goa government enthusiastic, the Customs Department confirmed on Tuesday that it would set up the customs infrastructure for clearing display equipment that vendors would be bringing in for the show.
Pragati Maidan offers a 123-acre complex in the heart of Delhi, with more than 61,290 square feet of covered exhibition area in 16 display halls, as well as 10,000 square metres of open display area, according to the ITPO website. In contrast, the Goa government has only offered empty land, on which the DEO intends to set up large tented structures for the duration of the show.
Ministry officials point out that most defence exhibitions worldwide, such as ILA Berlin, operate out of temporary structures, which present a smarter, newer look than Pragati Maidan’s tired buildings that have wiring hanging loose in numerous places. The DEO has also complained frequently about a “monkey menace” at Pragati Maidan, and seepage of water into the display buildings when it rains.
DEO officials say the defence ministry has been paying as much as Rs 27-30 crore for a five-day exhibition. Over and above this, it has been paying Rs 4-5 crore each year for repairing Pragati Maidan infrastructure damaged by the movement of tanks and heavy defence equipment.
For all these reasons, in 2012, a joint committee of the defence ministry and the ministry of civil aviation had recommended Goa as an alternative exhibition site.
“The Goa infrastructure will allow relatively free movement of heavy equipment. We also intend to organise, for the first time in Defexpo India 2016, a live demonstration area, where tactical settings can be staged, such as helicopter-mounted assaults by Special Forces soldiers”, says a defence ministry official.
The DEO points out that temporary structures provide the flexibility to “grow the show”, as more exhibiters want to participate, or to structure their displays in specific ways. “The decision is evoking an enthusiastic response from exhibitors that we have spoken to already. We have already sold out 50 per cent of the display area”, says a ministry source.
Even so, vendors that Business Standard contacted worry that moving the show out of Delhi might result in fewer official visitors attending. “In Delhi, we are assured of good attendance from defence ministry, army, navy and air force officials, as well as procurement officials from the police and paramilitary forces. We will have to see how many of them make the trip from Delhi to Goa”, says a senior executive from a multinational arms corporation that will be exhibiting during Defexpo India 2016.
Global vendors also wish the dates of the show had been planned with more thought. “We will be attending the International Fleet Review that the navy is organising in Visakhapatnam from February 4-6. If the Defexpo India 2016 had been scheduled from February 8 onwards, instead of February 17, that would have been far more convenient for us”, says a vendor.
Defexpo is India’s premier land and naval systems show. It is expected to attract more than 400 defence companies, including practically every major vendor. India remains the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment and Defexpo 2016 will provide another opportunity for vendors to showcase their equipment for decision-makers.