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Bengaluru: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to urge the world’s biggest aerospace companies to “make in India" when he opens the country’s biggest air show in Bengaluru on Wednesday, seeking to use it as a springboard for the ascent of defence manufacturing in India.

Hearing Modi’s inaugural speech at the biennial Aero India will be delegates from 328 foreign companies, who will join counterparts from 295 Indian firms participating in the event. Past editions of Aero India have featured defence ministers flagging off the event, which showcases the latest in aerospace technology.

“We want to set make in India as the major theme of the exhibition and see ‘Make in India’ progress in the defence sector also," said G. Mohan Kumar, secretary, department of defence production, ministry of defence.

Make in India is one of the signature programmes of the Modi government, which the prime minister launched on Independence Day with a call to foreign companies to manufacture in India products ranging from plastics and paper to satellites and submarines to help the country lessen its dependence on imports, boost exports and create jobs.

India, which procures most of its defence requirements from foreign manufacturers, is expected to spend $120 billion on arms acquisitions over the coming decade. India’s total defence budget allocation is estimated to be $620 billion from fiscal 2014 to 2022, of which 50% would be on capital expenditure.

The annual business opportunity for Indian companies—both public and private sectors—is expected to reach $41 billion by fiscal 2022, according to a report released by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and Centrum Capital Ltd on 6 February.

“I believe that the Indian defence sector is at an inflection point and poised to grow at a sustainable high rate in the next decade," said Sandeep Upadhyay, a senior vice-president at Centrum Capital.

The renewed focus from the government on streamlining the policies and cultivating a conducive investment climate is likely to enthuse potential investors to consider it as a strategic investment alternative, Upadhyay said.

India has increased the foreign investment limit in defence manufacturing to 49% from 26% to make it more attractive for overseas companies to invest in the country.

For the first time, some states that want to be partners in defence production and are keen to set up defence-related industries and special economic zones are also participating in the exhibition, including Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Also for the first time, defence minister Manohar Parrikar will chair a Make in India defence manufacturing investors’ summit and global chief executive officers (CEOs) conference.

“The backdrop of Make in India at the show this time makes it an excellent platform for us to strengthen existing partnerships and activate new ones," said John Brosnan, managing director, India and South-east Asia, BAE Systems Plc, Europe’s largest defence company.

India is the largest operator of BAE Systems’ Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft with 123 ordered, of which over 90 have been delivered to the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. The Indian Hawks in service have clocked 75,000 flying hours.

BAE Systems has commenced contract negotiations with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) on a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 Hawk aircraft. The aircraft will be built by HAL in Bengaluru.

European aircraft maker Airbus Group NV, which has said it will partner with the Tata group to make Avro cargo planes locally if it wins a government contract, will be flying in its A400m cargo plane from Japan.

“We have been used to partnerships in India as is shown by our long-standing collaborations with several Indian public and private companies as well as R&D (research and development) organizations and academic institutions," said Yves Guillaume, president—India, Airbus Group.

“We are enthusiastic about the Make in India campaign and are ready to leverage our existing local partnerships and invest in new ones to make the most of it. Aero India offers the perfect setting to discuss our plans to make in India with various stakeholders. We look forward to our participation in the show," added Guillaume.

On the last two days of the show, Airbus will organize a recruitment fair at its pavilion for experienced aviation engineers.

Thirty-three countries are participating in this year’s Aero India; the US will be the biggest in representation with 64 companies, followed by France (58), the UK (48), Russia (41), Israel (25) and Germany (17).

Some of the world’s biggest aircraft and most lethal fighter jets will be showcased at the event. These include the Lockheed Martin F-16C, the F-15C Eagle, the Boeing KC-135, the Boeing C-17 A Globemaster III, the Boeing P-8A Poseidon and the Dassault Rafale.

In December, the Indian defence ministry said that the defence ministers of both France and India had agreed to finalize the sale of 126 Rafales to India in a deal worth an estimated $15 billion, but the deal is still stuck in last-minute negotiations.

Around 300 CEOs from Indian and foreign industries are expected to attend the event, and round-table meetings of Indian corporate leaders with those from abroad are scheduled.

The role of cybersecurity in defence, aerospace and civil aviation, public-private partnerships, integrating the Indian aerospace industry with the global supply chain, creation of infrastructure and enhancing regional-rural connectivity, empowering and incentivizing Indian micro, small and medium enterprises in the defence and aerospace sectors, and using defence offsets to create a vibrant domestic defence industrial base are among some of the topics to be featured at seminars.

The government expects the number of business visitors to rise by nearly 50% from the last edition to 150,000 this year.

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