The Aero India 2011 air show kicked off in Bangalore Wednesday, welcoming 675 firms and around 40 official delegations from 45 countries and regions, although China did not stand among them.
"We called some Chinese companies, but nobody is coming," Wing Commander M.D. Singh, joint director of India's Defence Exhibition Organization, told the Global Times.
Citing a defense official, the Indian Express reported Monday that some procedural delays at the country's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had prevented Chinese people from attending the show, as the MEA made "a last-minute change" in its policy to bar China from joining this year's exhibition.
A week ago, Raj Kumar Singh, secretary of defense production of India's Ministry of Defense, said at a press briefing that the MEA had advised organizers not to invite Chinese delegates, nor those from Iran and Pakistan.
"Even Chinese journalists are unable to register at the event, as there is no 'China' option on the official website's registration page," Liao Zhengjun, a People's Daily reporter in Bangalore, told the Global Times.
"No Chinese delegation was invited. The Chinese embassy in New Delhi only received the invitation of the opening ceremony just before the show started. I'm still trying to ask organizers for a press pass," Liao said.
"The show is very popular among Indians, but the organizing of the event is a bit problematic. Some visitors can buy several tickets with just one identification card, a move that is clearly forbidden by organizers," he added.
Aero India is a biennial air show that started in 1996 and has grown into one of the largest aviation exhibitions in Asia. Seven delegates marked China's first attendance in 2009. Some reports speculated that the MEA's hesitance to invite China this year was payback for Beijing's visa policy in certain areas disputed by the two countries.
Wang Yanan, an associate editor in chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times that India's reluctance to invite China to the air show is unreasonable.
"The exhibition is a platform for business, not for political bias. If India bars China from joining the show for political reasons, then it is showing its lack of gravitas as a regional power," Wang said.
The Indian Air Force sent its Surya Kiran aerobatics demonstration team to the 7th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, in 2008. However, it did not attend the 8th Zhuhai air show in 2010, where China and Pakistan unveiled their co-developed JF-17 Thunder fighter jet.
"The scale of Aero India 2011 exceeds the 2010 Zhuhai air show due to the presence of military equipment from European and US companies," Wang said, adding that the Zhuhai exhibition was mainly a platform to demonstrate China's aerospace and aviation technology, while the fair in Bangalore is more businessoriented.
According to the Indian Express, the US will be the biggest participant in this year's show, with the presence of 250 members led by Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro.
This comes as India rises to prominence in the global aviation market, with Boeing predicting that Indian airlines could spend $130 billion in the next two decades on acquisitions.
Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp and three other Western firms are all in the running for a $12 billion deal to sell 126 fighter jets to India, AFP reported.
Russia, which is cooperating with India to develop the fifthgeneration fighter aircraft, also geared up to promote about 80 types of weaponry, including the Su-35 fighter jet and the Be- 200 amphibious aircraft.
According to government figures, India's military spending grew from $12 billion in 2000-2001 to nearly $33 billion in 2010-2011.
International consultancy firm KPMG estimates that New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016, AFP reported.