Fewer foreign exhibitors will take part in DefExpo-2018 and China has not responded to an invitation to the defence ministry’s military systems exhibition that will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chennai on April 12, a senior government official said on Wednesday. The count of foreign exhibitors is down by around 10% but the number of Indian firms showcasing their military wares has gone up at the biennial show last staged in Goa, said Ajay Kumar, secretary, defence production. Briefing reporters, Kumar said 677 exhibitors, including 523 from India, had confirmed their participation in DefExpo-2018. The figure is far lower than the 1,055 Indian and foreign firms that took part in the exhibition in Goa in 2016. Delay in announcing the dates and shifting the venue from Goa to Chennai may have forced some exhibitors to change their plans, people from the industry said. The exhibition seeks to project the country as an emerging defence manufacturing hub, with a special India pavilion to showcase the combined strength of the public and private sectors in defence production, Kumar said. The pavilion will exhibit 70 indigenously produced weapons and systems. India has been the world’s largest weapons importer for a decade. He said India had produced defence equipment worth Rs 55,000 crore last year and several countries were interested in buying Indian products. “While we are welcoming big global companies, we aim to showcase the significant manufacturing capabilities we have achieved over the years,” Kumar said. As many as 47 official delegations from different countries, including 18 ministerial ones, are expected to attend the exhibition. Defence ministry officials said that China was invited to take part in DefExpo-2018 but “we haven’t heard back from them.” One of the highlights of the exhibition will be the India-Russia military industry conference on April 13, expected to be attended by more than 300 industry leaders from the two countries. The Indian Air Force is likely to start the process of inviting foreign military contractors to build fighter jets in the country under the government’s Make in India plan before DefExpo-2018 starts, as reported by HT on March 12. Several global plane makers are taking part in the show and waiting for the IAF to put out a request for information for building 114 jets in the country.