Nirmala Sitharaman: India's first independent woman defence minister
Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, New Delhi, Sep 3 2017, 19:18 IST
Nirmala Sitharaman taking oath as cabinet minister. ANI picture
The priority task for Nirmala Sitharaman, India's first full-time woman defence minister in 70 years, would be to put into action the “Strategic Partnership” model that seeks to encourage big private sector companies to kick start defence manufacturing sector in India.
She is likely to assume charges on September 6. The 58-year old Sitharaman, who was promoted to the cabinet rank on Sunday, takes over from the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who cleared the decks to roll out the SP model.
Jaitley succeeds IITian Manohar Parrikar, who did the ground work for the SP model that aims to create a parallel defence manufacturing sector in India without relying solely on the defence public sector units and ordnance factories.
The NDA government eyes defence manufacturing as a potential area to boost economic productivity and create the job. The two predecessors of Sitharaman in the South Block, took several other big decisions like the implementation of the one-rank-one-pension policy for the veterans and the seventh pay commission recommendations for the soldiers as well as the creation of a new defence procurement procedure with a policy on the blacklisting of companies and role of the agents.
Implementation of the SP model to spur “Make in India” remains the only unfinished agenda for the defence ministry in the NDA regime. Talking to the reporters soon after the Cabinet reshuffle, Jaitley said Sitharaman's elevation was a clear case of good-performance by a minister to earn more important responsibility in the government.
“Very significant landmark in this reshuffle is that we now have Nirmala Sitharaman as the new Defence Minister. It is a case where a minister performs well and earns a higher responsibility for herself. I am sure, now that I have an extremely competent successor in Nirmala Sitharaman, she will carry the road forward,” he said.
This is for the first time in Independent India, the male-dominated corridors of power in the defence ministry would be run by a full-time woman minister. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held defence ministry as an additional portfolio in two terms (Nov-Dec, 1975 and (January 1980-Jan, 1982).
“It is very big responsibility. What is more important is there are going to be two women in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), Sushma-ji and me,” said Sitharaman, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka.
On the bilateral Japan tour of the Indian defence minister, Jaitley explained he would be leaving for the assignment on Sunday night because it was too late in the day to make logistic arrangement for the defence minister to travel to Tokyo on a Sunday.
“I will continue for next two days to participate in the security dialogue. She will take charge of ministry as soon as dialogue ends,” Jaitley added.