Bahrain has indicated it wanted a bigger participation from India at the Bahrain International Air Show, two years after the Tejas light combat aircraft and an Indian Air Force aerobatics team were among the star attractions of the biennial event outside the capital Manama.
Officials familiar with the development said that a top minister of the Arab state put the point across to the Indian ambassador to Bahrain at the November 14-16 air show in which close to 200 defence and aviation firms took part.
Only a small delegation from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) represented the country. In the 2016 edition, India had flown two Tejas aircraft, apart from sending an aerobatics display team . That was the first time the Tejas planes flew in foreign skies.
“We have a 35% increase in the number of companies participating in the air show. I was with the Isro team and the Indian ambassador sometime back and I told him, ‘Last year the Indian team was the story of the show. This year, we don’t have a lot of Indian participation’,” said Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, the minister for transportation and telecommunications and deputy chairman of the Supreme Organising Committee of the Bahrain International Air Show.
ISRO and Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency are doing the groundwork for signing MOU in February for space cooperation.
Mohammed said the Indian Ambassador Alok Kumar Sinha assured him that India would have a bigger presence at Sakhir at the show’s 2020 edition. Sinha could not be reached for a comment despite calls .
Strategic affairs expert Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia (retd) said such international air shows provide a platform to showcase the capabilities of the Indian military industry though immediate business may not be generated.
“But it’s not only a question of business. It’s also about advertising your military wares and India does produce a fair amount of products and equipment. In that sense, it makes sense to take part in global shows,” he said.
Bahraini officials were hoping that India would send a big delegation and a few aircraft to take part, given that New Delhi is planning to set up a new defence wing at the Indian embassy in Manama. The proposal to base a naval Captain in the strategically located country was cleared in September after the inaugural 2+2 dialogue between the defence and foreign ministers of India and the US.