CHINKS IN THE AR­MOUR

Strate­gic part­ner­ships in de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing take shape, but re­forms in the min­istry are still over­due

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | DEFENSE - By San­deep Un­nithan

T HAS BEEN AN un­prece­dented re­volv­ing door at the South Block in the past three years. Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley held ad­di­tional charge of the min­istry for the first six months till Goa CM Manohar Par­rikar could take over. He held the post for two years and four months be­fore head­ing back to Goa, leav­ing Jait­ley at the helm again. One can only guess the im­pact of this in­sta­bil­ity on the min­istry as well as on the Modi gov­ern­ment’s thrust to mod­ernise the mil­i­tary and re­vi­talise the do­mes­tic arms in­dus­try to gen­er­ate jobs and tech­ni­cal knowhow. Hikes in the mil­i­tary bud­get have been miserly in the Modi regime; the de­fence bud­get as a per­cent­age of GDP at its low­est since the 1962 war. Even that is not spent ef­fi­ciently, given the pon­der­ous pro­cure­ment process and re­cent de­fence scams. How­ever, a cru­cial pol­icy for strate­gic part­ner­ships is in its last lap. In­dian pri­vate sec­tor giants will tie up with for­eign de­fence ma­jors to pro­duce fighter jets, sub­marines and bat­tle tanks. The first con­tracts for how­itzers were signed over the past year; a 7.8 bil­lion Euro deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets from France gives the IAF much­needed mus­cle. But re­form of the de­fence min­istry is still held up. This in­cludes ap­point­ing In­dia’s first Chief of De­fence Staff. It could be the corner­stone of the re­form process. But we have to have a full­time de­fence min­is­ter first.

SONU ME­HTA/GETTY IM­AGES

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