On taking over as the 36th Defence Minister of the country, Shri Manohar Parrikar began by stating that he would maintain the fast pace of acquisition set in motion by the government for the defence forces while ensuring transparency at every stage. On his first visit to Naval Air Station INS Hansa on 14 Nov ’14, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, FOC-in-C, Western Naval Command apprised him of naval operations, progress and issues pertaining to coastal security and future development plans of Indian Navy. As the first IIT graduate to become Chief Minister of a state and now a Defence Minister and that too as one who is close to tech and cyber savvy Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose first stop on taking over was the DG, Mil Ops’ Ops Room, it is expected that both will be addressing and hopefully expediting issues of vital importance to India’s external security with all that it entails.
For far too long India’s national security has suffered and the challenges are many.
In dealing with China and Pakistan, while so far Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and former temporary Defence Minister SK Jaitley have made the right statements but dealing with them on the ground will have to be timely and appropriately. That also means ensuring fast –paced modernization and acquisitions.
The recent news about Chinese PLA training Pak army should not at all come as a surprise, because both these armies have been exercising together in Eastern Ladakh since about 2007. The Pak army and rangers have been on the rampage particularly across the International Boundary stretch of Jammu & Kashmir. As for the Valley, Pak army/ISI have been desperately trying to induct more Pakistani terrorists into India, prop up more groups there and also recruit/train/equip groups that they raised in other pats of India like Indian Mujahideen and SIMI. ISI, an old supporter of HUJI-B (Bangladesh), has also penetrated West Bengal as illustrated by the Burdwan incidents. ISI’s new motivational theme for Pakistani terrorist groups is Prime Minister Modi, who is already reported to have been threatened. Added to all these factors, the drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, the internal situation in Pakistan and the advent of ISIS flags in Pakistan and India’s Kashmir Valley only underscore the importance of making up essential cutting-edge deficiencies in the conventional arsenal of India’s Armed Forces as well as raising the strength of personnel for Indian Army, Navy and MHA’s central armed police forces.
Shortly before demitting charge of Defence Ministry, Shri Jaitley said that the government has initiated several steps to overcome road blocks such as procedural delays, environmental clearance and shortage of high technology equipment to hasten the process of building roads in these critical areas. As far as India-China border roads are concerned, the Government has initiated building of 73 roads of total length 3812 km for development. Of these, 61 have been entrusted to BRO, totalling 3410 Km. BRO has completed road length of 590 Kms on 17 roads. Works on the balance roads structures are under progress and in different stages of completion. The Army has prioritized 22 roads structuring upto 3000 Kms for development. The works on these roads have been taken up by BRO and are being intensively monitored by the Ministry for early completion.
For accomplishing all of the above, the bureaucratic stranglehold, which particularly defence ministry has been known for, will have to be broken. While Shri Modi’s work culture, timings and monitoring have had an unprecedented effect on bureaucracy, much more will have to be done to change an over six decades long ethos of unbridled power without accountability.
Last but not least, the promises made by Messrs. Modi and Jaitley on meaningful implementation of one rank one pension for armed forces veterans must be fulfilled and not allowed to be misinterpreted by those who have done so even after BJP came to power.