Aero India, known as “the largest air show in Asia,” will officially be starting from February 14. US, Russian and European arms giants will be vying for this “super cake” of the Indian arms sales market. According to a Times of India report on February 13, unlike in previous years, Aero India 2017 will see the presence of the Air Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). “A Chinese delegation will be participating in the 11th edition of Aero India for the first time, which is being held at Yelahanka Air Force station in India’s Bangalore.
The report said that the Chinese delegation will have five Air Force personnel. “At the request of China, the delegation will also add two more members.” While acknowledging the participation of Chinese air force personnel, the Indian Defense Ministry officials termed this as a major development: “until now there was a cautious approach and now the government has become proactive.”
The Aero India is held biennially and co-organized by India’s Defense Ministry and the Indian Air Force among other departments. According to a BBC report, Chinese exhibitors have participated in Aero India-2009, and in 2013, India extended invitation to the Chinese side for the first time. India’s Times News Network reported that during the 2011 edition of Aero India, a Chinese journalist had stormed into the then defence minister A K Antony’s press conference and complained that: “Mr Defence Minister, I congratulate you on the show, which I think is a great success, but I want to tell you that I had not received passes until this morning and I still do not have passes to cover the remaining of the show, are we China really invited for this show?” Times of India described that “The Chinese had never participated in the show with even the media from China never really entertained wholeheartedly, and the delegation this time is likely to garner a lot of attention”.
VOA website reported that the military exchanges between China and India are not much and the competition is fierce, “India has the advantage of being able to import high-tech military systems from the West and Russia at the same time, while China suffers much more restrictions”. Taiwan military expert Shi Xiaowei thinks that United States and Europe are coming to India for participating because of the opportunities for them in the Indian market, but India is not a potential market for Chinese arms sales.
The Aero India 2017 will last for five days. India’s Asian News Agency reported on February 13 that as many as 72 advanced aircrafts will be participating in the show, while 270 Indian companies and up to 279 foreign companies are participating in the event. Defense News of the United States said that the Swedish company Saab and the United States Lockheed Martin will compete in the Indian Light Combat Aircraft project. India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will hand over the indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) System during the air show. HTT-40 trainer aircraft, indigenously produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, will make its debut. Russia’s Sputnik News reported on February 13 that India is trying to attract foreign companies to set up their manufacturing base or make local manufacturers as partners. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the “Make in India” program to boost defense manufacturing in India, but foreign investors have not shown much interest. ▲ (Ren Zhong)