New Delhi,Arghya Roy Chowdhury: Former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, undoubtedly one of the most articulate ‘young’ faces in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been floated in by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to possibly take over the defence portfolio. So far, Arun Jaitley held the mantle of this very crucial ministry as an additional charge.
Top 5 challenges for new defence minister Manohar Parrikar
Finally, Parrikar was made to resign as Goa CM to become the Defence Minister, which shows how much importance Modi gives to this sensitive ministry. Now let us evaluate the five pressing issues that Parrikar will face even before he properly settles in the hot seat.
This will be one of the major issues for Parrikar to deal with. Modi extended the olive branch after becoming prime minister. But Pakistan decided to go on the rampage. While there are many theories about the possible reasons behind Pakistan’s hostility, it has certainly been a test for the Indian government. The Indian forces have returned the favour to their Pakistan counterparts, but the challenge for Parrikar will be to work closely with other top ministers who are part of the Cabinet Committee of Security to ensure that the Pakistani side is kept in a tight leash.
The Chinese Conundrum:
Chinese incursions in Ladakh have been a major cause of concern for India. Chinese forces were reportedly making incursions across the border into India even as PM Modi and President Xi Jinping were holding a meeting. While the Indian side will be trying to hammer out a possible amicable solution to the border dispute with China, the forces need to be vigilant as ever to give a prompt rebuttal to any possible Chinese aggression. Parrikar will have to ensure the forces are always ready to give it back if the need arises.
Sanctioning defence deals:
The last government had virtually put a freeze on defence deals, with AK Anthony not willing to take any chance of possible corruption. The present government thus has lot of catch up work to do. By the end of October, the government sanctioned defence deals worth nearly nearly Rs 80,000 crore. It decided that six submarines will be made indigenously and over 8,000 Israeli antitank guided missiles and 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft will be purchased.
But there are still several pending defence projects on the anvil, especially with government increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence projects from 26% to 49%. Countries from China to the UK, the US to Israel are lining up to persuade India to buy their defence equipment. It will take a lot of guile and perseverance from Parrikar to take the right decisions and ensure that the process is done in a completely transparent way.
Speeding up DRDO output:
Even while campaigning during the Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi had harped on the fact that India should look to build indigenous firearms and weapons. Speaking at a programme, Modi said it is sad that Indian jawans have to use imported arms. He said indigenous weapons will not only bolster the armoury, but can even help us export them to get foreign exchange in future.
In reality though, the task is much more difficult, with reports of many units of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) working less as a scientific lab and more as sarkaari office. A science audit of DRDO is long overdue. At present, India imports more than 70% of its defence equipment. A rehauling of the DRDO will not be an easy task and there can’t be any quick fix. But who better than Parrikar in the current regime to get to the heart of the problem and to diagnose the ailment so that like ISRO, DRDO can also make us proud in the future.
Solving the naval puzzle:
In the last 15 months, as many as 13 naval accidents have taken place, leading to at least 23 casualties. Navy chief DK Joshi resigned in February claiming moral responsibility. But unfortunately the navy’s tryst with accidents have not stopped. Even as recent as on November 6, an Indian navy torpedo recovery vessel had an accident which left one dead and four others missing. This trend of accidents with alarming alacrity is certainly a cause of huge concern with a possible negative effect on the navy. It is up to Parrikar to ensure that some mechanism is worked out so that chances of accidents in future are minimised as much as possible.