Defence exposition in Gandhinagar cancelled, govt says will reschedule

MoD sources, speaking off the record, say postponement has nothing to do with “logistics problems”

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Defence Expo | Defence ministry | Gujarat

As war rages in Ukraine and Russian forces push deeper into that country, the effect is being felt in faraway Gujarat, where the Government of India has indefinitely put off DefExpo 2022 – billed as “Asia’s largest exhibition on land, naval and homeland security systems”– that was scheduled to be held next week.

Taking attendees by surprise, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Friday: “Due to logistics problems being experienced by participants, the DefExpo 2022 proposed to be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat from March 10thtill March 14th is postponed. The new dates will be communicated in due course.”

MoD sources, speaking off the record, say the postponement has nothing to do with “logistics problems”. As recently as February 18, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Gandhinagar to review the preparations for DefExpo 22. His satisfaction was evident from the fact that he extended the exhibition by a day, to allow the public to visit in larger numbers.

After Rajnath’s visit, the MoD announced: “The event is being organised as one of the largest defence international exhibitions of the world. There has been greater domestic and international interest in this 12th edition of DefExpo, since India relaxed its health protocols owing to the reduction in Covid-19 cases.”

An upbeat defence minister said he expected the number of companies registering for DefExpo 22 to exceed 1,000 by the start of the show.

MoD sources are speculating that the postponement of DefExpo 22 could be an outcome of America’s unwillingness to participate in a military systems exposition that was also being attended by Russia at a time when the latter stands accused of unilateral military aggression against Ukraine.

MoD sources also cite the imprudence of tying up India’s military transport aircraft fleet – including the C-17 Globemaster III, Ilyushin -76 and C-130J Super Hercules – in administrative duties related to DefExpo 22 at a time when they may be needed for evacuating Indian citizens from a war zone.

While the MoD has so far announced only that DefExpo 22 has been “postponed”, and not “cancelled”, officials in Gandhinagar say it is most unlikely that all the meetings, seminars, press conferences and other events in a defence exposition could be rescheduled.

“The participating defence companies and government entities have paid large sums of money for travel, accommodation, display areas and administrative expenses. These costs are unlikely to be reimbursed to us. Nor would we have the appetite for another round of expenses,” said the chief executive of a foreign defence firm.

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