Arun Jait­ley dons two hats


For the sec­ond time in three years since the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (NDA) un­der the lead­er­ship of Naren­dra Modi came to power, the ver­sa­tile, ar­tic­u­late and knowl­edge­able Arun Jait­ley has been given ad­di­tional charge of the de­fence port­fo­lio, along with his main port­fo­lio of fi­nance and cor­po­rate af­fairs. Manohar Par­rikar who held the de­fence port­fo­lio has moved back to Goa as Chief Min­is­ter. The fact that this is an ‘ad­di­tional charge’ means that the De­fence Min­istry will have a min­is­ter hold­ing the port­fo­lio in­de­pen­dently. Till then, Jait­ley will don two hats and it is hoped that the De­fence Min­istry will stand to ben­e­fit as there are many fi­nan­cial is­sues of the De­fence Min­istry pend­ing be­fore the Fi­nance Min­istry.

In this is­sue, we have dif­fer­ent view­points on the tem­po­rary charge. In a scathing at­tack, the for­mer Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen­eral Vi­jay Oberoi opines that when a De­fence Min­is­ter joins the com­mit­tee cul­ture of the bu­reau­cracy, as Par­rikar has done, with rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mit­tees ei­ther pend­ing or ex­tended or ly­ing in cup­boards with­out any ac­tion, then all is ob­vi­ously at a stand­still on the se­cu­rity of the na­tion.

Giv­ing a slightly con­trast­ing view is Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd) who men­tions that in tu­mul­tuous ten­ure, Par­rikar also ini­ti­ated re­forms in the pro­ce­dures for the ac­qui­si­tion and in­dige­nous man­u­fac­ture of weapons and equip­ment and en­sured the preparation and pub­li­ca­tion of the new De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure, 2016.

Air Mar­shal B.K. Pandey (Retd) has said while the ap­point­ment of Manohar Par­rikar as the Goa Chief Min­is­ter has been dic­tated by po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­di­ency, this move has im­pli­ca­tions for the In­dian armed forces. It goes with­out say­ing that the as­pi­ra­tions of the na­tion are un­likely to be ful­filled with a ‘Part-Time Min­is­ter of De­fence’ at the helm. Hope­fully, the govern­ment will ad­dress this is­sue with­out any fur­ther de­lay. Af­ter a decade of deep slum­ber, in 2015, the Min­istry of De­fence un­der the NDA govern­ment with Manohar Par­rikar as the Min­is­ter of De­fence em­barked upon a num­ber of re­forms in the de­fence sec­tor.

Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) writes that since he is the Fi­nance Min­is­ter, it would prob­a­bly fa­cil­i­tate con­clud­ing the con­tracts of the cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture in the ` 86,488 crore de­fence out­lay of the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year — same as he did in 2014. But what could be a very more sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion by him is if he would make avail­able the ad­di­tional ` 13,000 crore de­manded by the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence while draw­ing the at­ten­tion of Par­lia­ment to the cry­ing need for mod­ernising the armed forces, to which the cur­rent al­lot­ment of ` 2,74,000 crore in de­fence bud­get 2017-18 does lit­tle to con­trib­ute.

In yet an­other view­point, Lt Gen­eral Ka­toch has talked about how China in her devious ways has voiced an in­nocu­ous un­of­fi­cial state­ment through Dai Bing­guo that if Tawang Plateau is ceded by In­dia, it could pave the way for a bound­ary set­tle­ment.

In this is­sue, we have a story on the glo­ri­ous era of INS Vi­raat, the flag­ship of the In­dian Navy, that came to an end on March 6, 2017. INS Vi­raat, the sec­ond Cen­taur class air­craft car­rier in ser­vice which has spent 30 years in the In­dian Navy and 27 years in the Royal Navy, was de­com­mis­sioned, in a solemn yet grand cer­e­mony at the Naval Dock­yard in Mum­bai re­cently.

Happy read­ing!

Jayant Baran­wal Pub­lisher & Edi­tor-in-Chief

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