Defence ministry mulls over hosting Defexpo-2020 in Lucknow

Chennai hosted the 2018 edition of Defexpo

defence-expo-4-arvind-jain DefExpo 2018, a large defence exhibition showcasing military equipment, on the outskirts of Chennai on April 11, 2018 | Arvind Jain

Defence ministry officials are considering an option to host the next edition of Defexpo—an international land, naval and internal homeland security systems exhibition—in Lucknow, which happens to be the Lok Sabha constituency of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

Sources privy to the development said that during his interaction with the ministry officials, Rajnath Singh has asked to explore the possibility of organising the 2020 edition of the event in the capital of Uttar Pradesh. Eleventh edition of Defexpo is scheduled for early 2020. However, holding an international event of this scale requires space, and adequate infrastructure.

Traditionally, Defexpo was held at New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, the usual venue for such exhibitions. It travelled to Goa in 2016 when the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar decided to took it to his home state. Then, in 2018, Nirmala Sitharaman moved the mega event to Chennai. In fact, uncertainty over its venue had delayed the last year's event, which normally takes place in the month of February and March.

In April 2018, Sitharaman, who hails from Tamil Nadu, chose a site along the East Coast Road, near Kanchipuram. While shifting the venue, she had argued that the NDA government at the Centre was not at all Delhi-centric and had taken many prestigious events out of the national capital to other parts of the country. In the Chennai edition of Defexpo, over 50 countries had showcased their products, considered to be the biggest in Asia.

Official sources claim that hosting Defexpo in Lucknow will be a big push towards the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Defence Corridor, launched in August last year. Modi government has announced in last year's budget to develop defence industrial corridor in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well. It has earmarked six nodal points for setting up of defence industrial corridor in Uttar Pradesh, which are Kanpur, Lucknow, Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi and Chitrakoot. Yogi Adityanath government at the state has already identified about 5,000 hectares for the corridor.

Earlier, Lucknow was considered as an option to organise the Aero India show—Asia's largest military aviation exhibition—early this year, after hosting it in Bangaluru for the last 22 years. But the Indian Air Force had reservations to host the show at the Bakshi Ka Talab airbase in Lucknow.

Bakshi Ka Talab, situated on the outskirts of Lucknow, belongs to the Central Air Command. IAF's reservations over organising the mega event at Bakshi Ka Talab were on multiple grounds including insufficient infrastructure. The airbase is small with no radar facility and the length of the runway is “short” to operate big transport aircraft. Eventually, the ministry decided not the shift the venue of Aero India and it was held at Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru in February.