The aerospace and defence sector did not live up to the hype during the 8th edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit. Except for a singular announcement about Airbus evincing interest in setting up a defence park at Dholera to manufacture helicopters, only four MoUs worth Rs 4,800 crore were signed in this sector that was aggressively marketed in the run-up to the summit.
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The MoUs signed on Thursday included Rs 2,500 crore promised by Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Defence Ltd. This agreement with the Industries Commissionerate was for “manufacturing of land systems at Pipavav”.
The second Rs 3,000-crore MoU was for a “nitric and petrochemicals complex” by Deepak Fertilisers and Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd. The other MoUs were signed by Javel Aerospace Pvt Ltd for setting up a Rs 103 crore “aero tools-smart jigs,fixtures and toolings. The fourth one was a Rs 250-crore agreement by Ajanta Manufacturing Ltd (Oreva Group) for a bullet-proof jacket and night vision camera unit.
“I am sure Gujarat has a proposal on setting up a defence estate (at Dholera). We can work on this. In fact, I had told the (Gujarat) CM that I will come up with some suggestions this time. But I am very sorry, the Election Commission came between us. He suddenly declared the elections and Goa is the first phase. I had to virtually run because there was hardly any time to finalise candidates,” Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said while speaking at an aerospace and defence seminar at the summit. “But I will definitely come after the February 4 deadline,” he added, speaking at the gathering where CM Vijay Rupani was also present.
Later, while talking to mediapersons outside the seminar hall, Parrikar was asked about the defence potential in Gujarat which has secured 22 licences. He said, “I have also offered that HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) can be invited to manufacture some of the newly developed products under the new (aerospace and defence) policy of Gujarat.”
Talking about the proposal of Airbus where an investment figure was not made public, Parrikar said that the helicopter manufacturing was a complex process and the proposed project at Dholera could also be a “specialised unit manufacturing just gear-boxes” of helicopters.
The state government had aggressively promoted and marketed this sector before the Vibrant Summit. It also went ahead and launched a dedicated aerospace and defence policy to attract potential investors. However, the response has been pretty unimpressive considering that Modi government granted about 22 industrial licences to Gujarat to set up defence manufacturing units in the state way back in May 2014.
These licences were to help set up defence manufacturing hubs in Kutch, Bhavnagar, Amreli, Surat, Bharuch and other districts of the state. Among those who have been granted these licences by the government include AMW Motors, Vadodara-based Swallow systems Pvt Ltd, Pipavav Defence & Offshore engineering Company Ltd, Modest Infrastructure Ltd, Fedders Lloyd Corporation Ltd and Asteria Aerospace.