DefExpo is 7 times the size of VGGS with defence ministers of 70 countries expected to participate in March 11-13 event. The three-day event is expected to see participation of 70,000 people. State in ‘wait & watch’ mode for Defence Expo in Gandhinagar with a final call to be taken by month end

Given the surge in Covid cases in the state, it seems another ambitious event of the Gujarat government is likely to get snared by the pandemic. The 12th edition of DefExpo (Defence Expo) scheduled to be held from March 11-13 in Gandhinagar has been put on the ‘wait & watch list’ as the country and state register a rapid surge in Covid cases. If it eventually gets postponed, the DefExpo will be the third big event of the state government to be moved back due to Covid. Earlier, the 10th Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) 2022 scheduled to be held from January 10-12 was postponed due to Covid. Later, the International Kite Festival was also postponed.

The DefExpo is being held for the first time in Gujarat and the state government has already issued tenders for awarding various works. Work orders, however, have not been issued as the state wants to see how the pandemic pans out, a senior bureaucrat in know of the situation told Mirror.

A source said the state has already sought guidance from the Defence Ministry and has been asked to wait as of now. “A final call will be taken at the end of this month. But it will be too short a time to put in place a mega expo,” the official said. “As this is being held for the first time in Gujarat, the Centre wants the state to make a grand show of it and the short notice will make it difficult if it goes ahead.”

It should be noted that when the state announced that it was postponing VGGS 2022 one of the main concerns was crowd management and ensuring Covid protocols amid the pandemic surge.

Much Bigger Than VGGS

The Defence Expo is seven times the size of VGGS with defence ministers of 70 countries expected to participate. The three-day event is expected to see a participation of over 70,000 people. Major global and domestic military firms are expected to participate in the biennial edition.

A massive exhibition showcasing different types of weapons, defence vehicles and artillery will also be part of the expo.

“ Stalls have to be given and domes have to be constructed for the exhibition and in case the Centre goes ahead with the event it will be an uphill task for us,” said a senior official.

The expo will highlight measures to transform India into a military manufacturing hub in line with the theme for the event- “India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub”. It will showcase the measures taken by the Centre to encourage the domestic defence manufacturing industry.

A major highlight of the expo is the Indian- African Defence Dialogue in which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will host his counterparts from African nations as part of the dialogue titled “India- Africa: Adopting Strategy for Synergising and Strengthening Defence and Security Cooperation”.

The challenges in holding the defence expo amid rising Covid cases remain the same as those that led to the postponement of VGGS - crowd management and ensuring Covid protocols are followed.

Tenders Invited

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the nodal agency for the expo has already invited tenders from hotels for nearly 5,000 rooms in four and five-star hotels in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.

HAL has submitted its requirements for rooms from February 7 to March 18. As per the original plan, officials from HAL and the Defence Ministry were to visit Gujarat and oversee the arrangements.

In all, 3,600 rooms in four-star hotels and 1,400 rooms in five-star hotels are to be booked. “We have got quotations from various hotels and once we get the green signal from the Centre we will confirm the bookings,” an official said.