It is going to be a month since former and popular Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quit to take over the reigns of Goa as Chief Minister. Like before the mantle of leading the Defence Ministry once again fell on the full time Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Within a fortnight of taking over Jaitley gave a go ahead to widespread military reforms based on a report by the Lt General (retired) DB Shekatkar committee, which made recommendations on enhancing the combat potential of India’s three armed forces, rationalizing the defence budget, and improving the teeth-to-tail ratio. He approved about 90 key recommendations of the Shekatkar committee.
With Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar asking the three service headquarters to implement the proposals, ball seems to have started rolling.
The first Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Arun Jaitley recently approved quite a few defence procurement proposals worth Rs 860 crore including purchase of 100 additional Israeli Barak-I surface-to-air missiles for naval warships.
One of the key decisions facing Defense Minister Arun Jaitley will be the operationalizing of the Strategic Partner Policy which will be the key to success of the PM’s Make in India plan.
His predecessor Manohar Parrikar was a quick decision-maker and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) under him not only cleared a vast range of projects and military purchases but he also batted for a number of stalled acquisition projects.
Purchase of 21 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, 145 Ultra Light Howitzers and indigenous production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns gave both the industry and the forces the feeling that the Defence Ministry was in right hands . Motivators like the new Defence Procurement Policy and OROP were icing on the cake.
So Arun Jaitley even if temporarily has stepped into the big boots of Parrikar and needs to fit in well. But will his prior commitments to the Finance and Corporate affairs Ministries give him time for the Defence Ministry?
High time PM Modi thought of a full time Defence Minister. A busy Finance Minister can only be a make shift arrangement and matters military need full time commitment.
9th April 2017