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Will focus on strengthening national security, military modernisation: Rajnath Singh

Outlining his vision for the next five years, Singh said the government will work assiduously to increase defence exports to Rs 50,000 crore by 2028-29 from the current Rs 21,083 crore.
Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 11:53 IST

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New Delhi: Amid the demand for a review of the controversial Agnipath scheme, senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh on Thursday assumed charge as the defence minister for the second time with a promise “to further strengthen India’s security apparatus” and “welfare of the soldiers, both serving and retired.”

Immediately after taking charge, Singh chaired a review meeting of the first 100 days programme of the Defence Ministry in which he asked the officials to focus on the welfare of the veterans and resolve issues related to the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, which often attracts criticism from retired soldiers.

Over the next few months, Singh will be busy in resolving the Agniveer row after several of BJP’s allies demanded a review of the controversial short-term recruitment scheme under which 75 per cent of soldiers retire at the end of fourth year of the service with a financial package but no pension benefits. Only 25 per cent of Agniveers are to be absorbed in the service as regular troops.

Even though there are internal reviews of the scheme within the armed forces, Singh didn’t say anything on what the government would do to fulfil the allies demand.

Singh said the government would focus on boosting India's defence production. "Defence exports had touched a record Rs 21,083 crore in 2023-24. It was historic. Our target will be to export over Rs 50,000 crore worth of defence equipment by 2028-2029," he said.

With a view to enhance defence preparedness and continued thrust on 'Aatmanirbharta' (self-reliance) in defence, the minister said he will be conducting regular review meetings to fast-track implementation of flagship schemes and the initiatives.

Signalling increased importance of the Indian Ocean Region in India's defence calculus, Singh decided that he would undertake the first visit in his second term as defence minister to the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam to interact with the officers and sailors, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Rajnath’s tenure in the South Block has similarities with his UPA era counterpart AK Antony who became the Defence Minister two years after the Manmohan Singh’s UPA-1 government came to power in 2004 and retained the position for five years in UPA-2 to become India’s longest serving defence minister till now.

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Published 13 June 2024, 11:53 IST

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