India has a big presence in the Middle East's largest military show that opened here Sunday, with the BrahMos cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia receiving a slew of enquiries.
Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) inaugurated the International Defence Exhibition (Idex 2005), which has 905 exhibitors from over 50 countries.
With Gulf countries being one of the most lucrative markets for international arms manufacturers, the show assumes importance as top international firms vie for the region's huge military budgets.
BrahMos, the supersonic cruise missile, has received many enquiries, and the two countries - India and Russia - would soon shortlist potential buyers.
The missile, named after the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, is touted to be unique and superior to the US Tomahawk missile after six successful trials since June 2001.
Said A. Shivathanu Pillai, the CEO and managing director of BrahMos and chief controller (research and development) of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO): "This is the second time BrahMos has come to Idex."
Pillai said the Indian Navy had given the green signal for inducting the BrahMos on its warships. In a recent test with a decommissioned Indian ship as the target, the missile scored a perfect hit.
"In one shot BrahMos hit the bull's eye. We have done six launches so far and all were successful," he said.
India and Russia have now reached a stage where they will decide as to which nations the BrahMos would be sold to, according to Pillai, who is visiting UAE as part of Idex 2005.
"We have received queries from a number of nations who wish to add the BrahMos missile to their arsenal and I would say India and Russia have now reached a stage to shortlist these countries."
The company that makes BrahMos was established in India as a joint venture through an inter-governmental agreement signed by India and Russia in February 1998.
BrahMos began with an initial investment of $250 million (50.5 percent Indian and 49.5 percent Russian). Pillai said the missile, with a strike range of about 300 km, was in the process of induction into India's armed forces.
In 2003 alone, the defence spending of six Gulf states - Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman - was $25.38 billion. The response to this year's Idex is a clear indication of how important these markets are for military equipment makers.
Experts said that in coming years, expenditure on defence and security by the GCC countries might come down despite regional instability and security threats.
Ahmad Humaid Al Mazrouei, director-general of General Exhibitions Corp (GEC), the show's organiser, said: "Idex 2005 promises to be an action packed and exciting event befitting the prominence and stature that previous editions of Idex have achieved.
"Idex has established itself as one of the most prestigious defence exhibitions worldwide and this edition is the biggest and most comprehensive ever as it offers an opportunity to key decision makers, defence ministers, chiefs of staff and senior officers from the defence forces to network with defence equipment manufacturers."
Among GCC states, Saudi Arabia spent the highest in 2003 on defence, totalling $18.40 billion, while Oman came next ($2.24 billion).
Kuwait's expenditure was put at $1.9 billion while that of UAE at $1.6 billion. Qatar's defence bill totalled $723 million and Bahrain's $520 million.
Though there is no official word, the UAE is finalising a contract for a low-level ballistic missile interception system for national defence and for a high-level missile interception for regional defence.