Amid extensive preparations, Defence companies from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Far East prepare to convene in Karachi to showcase their latest military technology and advancements at the four-day International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2016 set to begin on November 22, at the Karachi Expo. In addition to the 261 foreign firms and 90 delegates representing 43 countries, the exhibition will also showcase the country’s indigenous built military hardware, including fighter aircrafts, tanks, missiles, drones. APCs, and firearms; Pakistan will flaunt its main battle tank Al-Khalid, JF-17 Thunder, Super Mishshak, K-8 aircraft, fast Attack Craft Missile boats, armored personnel carriers, premium grade military hardware and other related technology. The Prime Minister, welcomed by the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, was accompanied by the Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, and IG Sindh at the inauguration ceremony held earlier today.
Despite an unfavorable security environment, the exhibition and subsequent seminar was elaborately planned and efficiently organized; hundreds of defence delegates, exhibitors, trade visitors, and seminar speakers are expected to grace the event with not only their presence but also their respective expertise. The exhibition will foster a good image of the metropolitan capital of Sindh and in effect the entire country, and according to Director Media of the Defence Export Promotion Organisation (DEPO) Commodore Tahir Javed, it is also a proud moment for the country and ‘is a clear manifestation of the fact that Pakistan does not lag behind in quality defence production’. By making Pakistan the geographic focal point of the Defence Exhibition, the forum aims to help the country project a modern, progressive, and tolerant image to the rest of the international community.
To start with, the exhibition/seminar will open up new avenues of international diplomacy through a like-minded interest in buying, selling, and sharing the latest military hardware and technology. Moreover, it will also provide the country with vast opportunities of foreign investment, joint agreements, and trade. While Pakistan’s foreign office and numerous consulates around the world help forge newer and stronger international relations, the defence industrial complex has its own role to play in constructing long lasting bridges with other states, industries, and defence institutions, ministers, and staff. While a large portion of the Expo Centre has been booked by the defence production companies from China, Russia, and Turkey (each has been given its own pavilion), this year nine new countries are also participating in the Exhibition: Luxemburg, Denmark, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belgium, Nigeria, and Romania. The last time two MoUs were signed in the Defence Exhibition held in December 2014, this year the number is expected to reach a staggering 14 MoUs.
While it is true that the international order of power changing, it is in essence also becoming more militaristic; long lasting defence and military agreements like these will not only enable a stronger international projection but will also help Pakistan’s diplomatic ties with other regions, especially in the face of alleged international isolation. Now more than ever there is a dire need for inter/intra state communication that can primarily focus on collaborating and showcasing strengths and prowess, a peculiar and perhaps a necessary way of forming alliances in a changing global order. In truth, the Exhibition has become a way to lobby the country’s national and international concerns: emphasis on the country’s homogenous defence industry on the national front and India’s growing aggression on its international borders. While Pakistan is sending a clear message to aggressors, it is simultaneously also honing unique skills in order to collaborate, safeguard, and produce next generation technology, whether used in times of war or to defend peace.
In a way, the Exhibition has the capacity to not only revive large scale mechanical and heavy equipment industry; it can also revive national interest in scientific research and innovative engineering techniques. There is a possibility that skilled labor may be required to run, improve, and build on the homogenous venture of military weapons. In the long run, it might even ease the national budget by plugging money into the national economy rather than cutting out a mammoth defence budget separately. While this might be a far-fetched hope, it is possible that Pakistan might rise in the ranks of sophisticated weaponry that will not only help its own standing armies but also be able to add to the country’s GDP growth. Yet, one should not lose sight of the fact that in order to sit at the big round table of military industries; the country has had to safeguard its nuclear arsenal along with fighting a battle of terrorism and security.
Along with the Exhibition, an International Defence Seminar is also planned along with smaller conferences. The Exhibition will end on November 25. The event is a positive step towards a progressive and inclusive future of the country, based on a responsible understanding between brute force and defence capabilities.
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