Millennium Post

Copters fly high on lacklustre Aero India

India’s one and only biennial air pageant began but lacked the spirit of a country that had a kitty of $150-200 billion to spend over the next decade. While the latter makes the Western nations (including Russia) salivate, Indian buying muscle was missing possibly because the real biggie, the Medium, Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract – which could be worth $ 20 billion by the time it’s  sealed – has been decided.

This was the contract that had the juices of media and people flowing till early last year, more because the media representatives of the readers they catered got many free rides. So this time, in the ninth edition of Aero India, the more lowly in the pecking order, helicopters dominated the show. The whirly birds, as romantics among arms merchants call them, were resplendent.

By some accounts, the country’s armed forces will be buying 900-odd of them in the next few years. So Eurocopter was present, so was Bell’s helicopter division. The Russians with their Kamovs were present and were actually relating with the Indian public – through their media representatives, of course -  in an unlikely act.

The only man who seemed full of vim was  Defence Minister AK Antony who was also in an unfamiliar role of being the poster boy of India’s foray in the global arms bazaar.

He counted how the space at the show has increased from 76,000 square metres to more than two lakh square metres, just to accommodate those who are itching to showcase their wares. He, of course, made the right noises about Karachi’s Gwadar port being under the control of the Chinese ‘as a matter of concern’. This was the first time that an official Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delegation was invited to attend the show.

Last time, there was a bit of a fracas with the Chinese not being initially invited. This time there was no such ham-handedness. The Chinese PLA representatives were present  watching the air show that normally follows the inauguration.
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