New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) It is not a carnival in the truest sense, but the four-day defence exposition in progress at the Pragati Maidan, India's major trade exhibition venue, is attracting both young and old, with love for all things military.
The biennial exposition, said to be the largest in Asia, is in only in its seventh edition, and it mainly focuses on land and naval military systems, be it the hard, rugged weapons and vehicles, to the soft and trendier electronics and communications equipment.
But for all the huge billboards that dot the city's main thoroughfares, particularly in Lutyen's Delhi, those who come to the event are mostly businesslike.
"I am an electronics and communication engineering student and I am here to see what is the latest stuff available in my area of interest," said Nikhil Mishra, a student of an engineering college in the city under the Indraprastha University.
"I am mainly keen on learning about the new technologies that are available in India on robotics," Mishra told IANS.
Is he enjoying the show here? "Well, yes, but in a serious kind of way. This show is not for fun and frolic," he added.
This year's defence exposition has over 500 international and national defence manufacturers vying with each other for attention. They represent over 30 nations including the world's largest defence majors such as American Boeing, European EADS, French DCNS and Thales, Russian Rosoboronexport, and British BAE Systems. They are all here for the official defence ministry and military delegations from over 60 nations that are its actual direct customers.
But a majority of the companies participating in this year's exposition are Indian -- nearly 60 percent. These include Larsen and Toubro, Tatas, Mahindras and public sector players such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Defence Research and Development Organistion, and Ordnance Factory Board.
These companies have all sorts of rugged military stuff on offer -- from main battle tanks, artillery guns, rifles and pistols, unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, hovercraft, ordnance such as missiles, rockets and explosives.
There are also hand-held communication sets, radio communication sets and highly secure online communication systems, all on the softer side of the military.
"This year's show has all the hardware in plenty such as vehicles, weapons, ordnance, delivery platforms and such. But it does not have some modern, latest such as structural simulators. Electronics side is a bit lacking," said an Indian defence ministry official, on condition of anonymity.
His sentiment is echoed by the engineering student, Mishra. "DRDO has done some good work on robotics, but the progress is gradual. We are lacking in indigenous systems. Investing in such critical areas is important for us," he said.
While there are no children playing around the Pragati Maidan as part of the defence exposition, where there are plenty of colours in the form of buntings and banners put out by different defence companies to attract attention, women too are few and far between.
Except for those women hired by the defence firms to man their stalls and direct employees, not many were seen at the exposition venue.
"This is the first time I am at a defence exposition. I am here because I am an employee of a global defence firm. Otherwise, I may not be here. But I am enjoying, as I am learning from the show, as part of my career growth plan," Neethu, 24, a just out-of-college new recruit of the firm she did not want to name, told IANS.
The four-day show -- with the last day, being a Sunday, open for the general public -- attracts over 100,000 footfalls every edition, but in terms of real time business orders, no official figures are available.
The show does generate interest among both local and global defence firms and some memorandum of understandings do get signed, providing for future business opportunities that might galvanise the Indian defence sector.
(N C Bipindra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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