IDEX 2021—A Big Opportunity for India to Go All-Out on Defence Exports

A major defence exhibition in the Gulf region, IDEX 2021 in Abu Dhabi, is a great platform for India to showcase its formidable defence manufacturing capabilities and bolster its export potential. This is all the more significant given the changing geopolitics in the West Asia region and the new equations in political and defence ties

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By Ramesh S.

New Delhi: The IDEX 2021 (International Defence Exhibition and Conference 2021) in Abu Dhabi from February 21-25 will host more than 1,300 vendors as well as five countries that are participating for the first time. Coming on the heels of the Aero India 2021, which concluded just two weeks ago, the 15th edition of IDEX and its sister event NAVDEX (Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition) are among the first few global defence exhibitions taking place in times of the Corona pandemic.

The IDEX and NAVDEX are organised by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, or ADNEC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence and the General Command of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces. Israel, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Luxembourg and North Macedonia are participating for the first time.

ADNEC Managing Director and Group CEO Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri said in a press statement that apart from 35 national pavilions, over 900 exhibitors from 59 countries are expected to take part in the 2021 edition of the defence show. Al Dhaheri said 84 per cent of companies exhibiting are based globally while 16 per cent will be UAE based entities. “Such figures demonstrate the vast international interest in IDEX and NAVDEX, alongside showcasing the high quality of defence innovations which will be on display in Abu Dhabi.”

IDEX and NAVDEX should be of prime interest for India’s defence sector. The big Indian defence PSUs like DRDO, OFB, Bharat Dynamics, GRSE and Mazagon Dock are participating (under the India pavilion) along with small and mid-level private enterprise like Hughes Precision, JSL (Jindal Steel (Hisar) Ltd) Defence, Mittal Group, Rashtriya Metal Industries, Ashoka Manufacturing Ltd and a few others with their independent stalls

Similarly, the naval wing of the exhibition, NAVDEX, will host over 70 exhibitors from 16 countries. Of these, the 10 countries that will showcase 17 naval units and vessels at the conference include: the US, UK, India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Italy, South Africa, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates.

These two Abu Dhabi events, IDEX and NAVDEX, should be of prime interest for India’s defence sector. The big Indian defence PSUs like DRDO, OFB, Bharat Dynamics, GRSE and Mazagon Dock are participating (under the India pavilion) along with small and mid-level private enterprise like Hughes Precision, JSL Defence, Mittal Group, Rashtriya Metal Industries, Ashoka Manufacturing Ltd and a few others with their independent stalls.

Given the government’s push for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) in defence and the goal of doubling defence exports in the next couple of years, one would have expected a much larger participation from the DPSUs and private players. But apparently the pandemic seems to have curtailed a full-fledged show. Nevertheless, given the changing West Asian political landscape, India has significant stakes in peace and security of the region.

The Abu Dhabi IDEX will also provide a lucrative window for future prospects and opportunities for Indian companies, what the future beholds for India in this region as a defence export market, collaborations for defence manufacturing and investment, defence and strategic cooperation etc. The Indian representation this year is small but has the potential to grow in strength in future. Whatever deals, ideas and lessons it brings back from IDEX 2021 should give a good guidemap for future delegations and aggressive pitching of India’s defence export potential.

Among the prominent private sector participants in IDEX 2021 is Jindal Stainless (Hisar) Ltd. CP Agrawal, Head of Defence Business, JSL, told Raksha Anirveda that JSL is the largest integrated manufacturer of Specialty Stainless Steel in India and is looking for global partners in Strategic materials, Armour Solutions and Glass/Carbon fibre composite with innovative, cost effective and sustainable solutions for the armed forces.

“JSL has invested significantly in Research & Development (R&D) and through innovation, developed advanced ballistic/blast protective grades with excellent mechanical and ballistic/blast properties and qualifies different threats with significant reduction in thickness and higher safety margin. It scores over the existing materials in terms of performance and is also cost-effective for armouring applications like BP (bullet-proof) Morcha, BP Sentry Post, Armoured Vehicles, Vehicle-Launched Bridge, etc. With the help of its state-of-the-art fabrication facility, JSL is doing armouring of vehicles using advanced armour grades and also supplying Armour Kits.”

Whatever deals, ideas and lessons it brings back from IDEX 2021 should give a good guidemap for future delegations and aggressive pitching of India’s defence export potential

“We are participating in IDEX with Armour Solutions showcasing our excellent quality armour products that have already been tested in TNO Netherlands, IABG Germany and TBRL India. We would like to enter the global supply chain with armour solutions to supply world-class products to our customers across the globe. In line with the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign of our Hon’ble PM, we have taken a step forward and will enter into the global supply chain along with supplying to the Indian market.”
CP Agrawal added that Indian companies are developing world-class defence products and solutions but their supplies are restricted to the Indian market. “We believe in making our country net exporter from existing net importer status of defence products and solutions. We are keen to collaborate with global partners in Strategic materials and Armour Solutions, and IDEX is the right platform to meet and explore the collaboration opportunities across the globe.”

He said JSL has developed the entire value chain of advanced armour products from raw material to finished products using state-of-the-art facilities and is ready to supply materials, components and sub-systems in the global market. “JSL strongly believes that our entry into the defence global market will not only give continued revenue stream to the government but also play a vital role in overall economic development of India,” Head of Jindal Stainless Defence Business added.

Similarly, another big name in the private defence sector is the Mittal Group, which has been in the non-ferrous metal business for more than 100 years. Amit Kapoor, VP, International Business, told Raksha Anirveda that the Mittal Group has a state-of-the-art, ISO certified facility for manufacturing Cartridge Case Cups and Bullet Jacket Cups of various calibres with an annual capacity of 500 million pieces.

“We are currently supplying our products to the Ministry of Defence, Ordnance Factories and to various leading ammunition makers across the globe. We are participating in IDEX 2021 to connect with the ammunition manufacturers across the globe and to showcase our capabilities in the industry.  We are also very keen to see our country India emerge as a key player in the global defence arena,” Kapoor added.

Saeed Al Mansoori, the executive director of Capital Events, a subsidiary of ADNEC, was quoted by an industry website as saying that Israel’s participation this year following renewed relations between the Jewish state and the UAE under the Abraham Accords is a “proud moment.”

The IDEX 2021 agenda focuses on cyber security, research and development, the defence supply chain, artificial intelligence, and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The Emirati defence conglomerate Edge plans to make more than 40 business announcements over the course of the five-day event, unveiling 20-plus products and exhibiting more than 50 capabilities, including autonomous systems and unmanned ground vehicles; precision-guided munitions; offshore patrol vessels; electronic warfare capabilities; and maintenance, repair and operations services.

-The writer is a senior journalist and Consulting Editor with Raksha Anirveda. The views expressed here are his own

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