Outgoing Goa CM Parrikar hints at bolstering India’s defence forces

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    Sep 22, 2012
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    Outgoing Goa CM Manohar Parrikar hints at bolstering India’s defence forces

    Giving the first hint that he would get the Defence portfolio in Sunday’s Union Cabinet reshuffle — as speculated — outgoing Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said Saturday that bolstering India’s defence forces to put “fear” in the minds of those hostile to the country’s interests and discouraging them from engaging in any potential conflict would be top on his agenda in his new role.

    Shortly after handing over his Goa charge to Laxmikant Parsekar and hours before taking off for Delhi, Parrikar told The Sunday Express that defence forces had to be strengthened to strengthen the country. Having held forth on this at some length, he abruptly clarified: “I don’t know which portfolio I am getting.”

    Incidentally, the Goa Department of Information and Publicity too in a press release issued Saturday evening referred to Parrikar as defence minister-designate. The release announcing Laxmikant Parsekar’s swearing-in read, “Shri Parrikar, who was chief minister, demitted office today, after he was declared union defence minister-designate.” Within half an hour, after the mistake was brought to its attention by mediapersons, the department hastily issued another release, where the sentence was changed to, “…demitted office today, to take up his new assignment in New Delhi”.

    “This is a great country,” Parrikar said. “You have to strengthen yourself in such a way that your opponent should feel fear to fight
    against you. Peace is always maintained by people who are strong, it can never be maintained by weak people.”

    Parrikar emphasised the need to improve defence procurement and production as well as training of armed forces, and said the country must stock up on superior equipment. “The list is long,” he said.

    Reports of Parrikar taking over as the next defence minister have been doing the rounds for the last couple of days. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been holding additional charge of the ministry since the Modi government came to power.

    Ahead of Sunday’s revamp — the first of the Narendra Modi Cabinet, scheduled for 1.30 pm at Rashtrapati Bhavan — between 12 and 15 names were doing the rounds in Delhi. Apart from Parrikar, only Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi was being talked of as a possible new entrant at the Cabinet level. The other changes may involve a reshuffle of portfolios and elevation of some ministers of state. A couple of ministers could be dropped.

    The revamp will factor in the BJP’s regional aspirations.

    Before the swearing-in, Modi will host a breakfast for the newcomers in his ministry, giving them a pep talk.

    BJP ally TDP has named Y S Chowdhary for induction, and the Rajya Sabha MP is expected to be made MoS. While the name of the Shiv Sena’s Anil Desai as MoS had also been circulating all day, it hit a bump in the evening as the Sena failed to get either an audience with Modi or an assurance from him to sort out ministry matters in Maharashtra. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray summoned its existing representative in the Union Cabinet, Anant Geete, to Mumbai, and till late on Saturday night, Desai was still waiting for the green signal to leave for Delhi.

    If inducted, Naqvi (57), the BJP vice-president, would return to the Union Council of Ministers 15 years after his stint in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. A portfolio for the BJP’s most prominent Muslim leader could send a strong message to the J&K electorate ahead of the state’s Assembly elections.

    The other entrants could be Vijay Sampla, a Dalit and first-time BJP MP from Hoshiarpur in Punjab; Ram Kripal Yadav, controversial Bhumihar leader Giriraj Singh and Rajiv Pratap Rudy from Bihar; BJP general secretary J P Nadda from Himachal; Ajay Tamta from Uttarakhand; Yashwant Sinha’s son Jayant Sinha, from Jharkhand; Haryana Jat leader Birender Singh; Bandaru Dattatreya from Telangana; popular singer Babul Supriyo from West Bengal; Hansraj Ahir from Maharashtra; Ramesh Bais from Chhattisgarh; and first-time MP from Rajkot Mohan Kundariya. There may be one or two names from Rajasthan as well.

    Sena leader and former Union minister Suresh Prabhu, the PM’s sherpa for G-20 Summit, is widely being talked about as the head of a new body that will replace the Planning Commission. In that capacity, he may get Cabinet rank.

    The TDP’s nominee, 53-year-old Yalamanchili Satyanarayana alias ‘Sujana’ Chowdary, is an industrialist-turned-politician who is close to party chief Chandrababu Naidu and belongs to the Kamma community. A Naidu aide said this was the first instance of the PM seeking a written communication from a partner on its choice for the Cabinet.

    Chowdhary too almost confirmed the induction, meeting Naidu to thank him. “I will discharge my duties effectively in whatever portfolio I am offered,” he told reporters.

    In West Bengal, state BJP chief Rahul Sinha let it drop at a press conference that, “as per information from my sources”, party Asansol MP Supriyo would be made a minister at the Centre.

    Sinha added that Modi himself had called Supriyo on Friday and that the MP had confirmed he had been called to Delhi.

    The “confirmation” of Kundariya’s name too came from the local unit. “It is a matter of pride for Saurashtra as well as Gujarat that PM Modi has decided to induct Kundariya as a minister,” said state Health Minister Nitin Patel.

    Parrikar’s entry into the Cabinet as one of its most powerful ministers is expected to alter the power equations in the government. An IIT alumnus, Parrikar could be the first technocrat-turned-politician in the Defence Ministry and would be a good name to steer the PM’s “Make In India” push.

    Parrikar told The Sunday Express that as a CM, he worked seven days a week and 16 hours daily, and he would continue working for his state.

    Parrikar was the first BJP CM to back Modi as PM and swears by development like him. He told The Sunday Express that till less than 10 days ago, he was unaware of any move to shift him to Delhi and that speculation about him being fully in the know was fuelled by his proximity to Modi.

    In fact, a common thread through most names being considered Saturday was their proximity to Modi. Apart from that, Bihar is likely to factor high as it would be the first state to see elections after the current round of Assembly polls, while Supriyo could further boost the BJP’s brightening prospects in West Bengal.

    The current strength of the Modi Council of Ministers, counting the PM, is 45 — including 23 ministers of Cabinet rank and 22 Ministers of State. Of the 22 MoS, 10 hold Independent Charge.
    - See more at: Outgoing Goa CM Manohar Parrikar hints at bolstering India’s defence forces | The Indian Express | Page 99


    Sep 22, 2012
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    Re: Outgoing Goa CM Manohar Parrikar hints at bolstering India’s defen

    Defence Minister Parrikar has his hands full

    The wait for a full-time Defence Minister ended on Sunday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi handing over the crucial portfolio — held by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as an additional charge — to Manohar Parrikar.

    If Jaitley’s five months at the helm were marked by decisions on some important acquisition projects, stern statements and responses to the ceasefire violations by Pakistan and importance attached to infrastructure projects along the China border, expectations are that Parrikar will have to go further than that. He will have to give the armed forces their due — be it in enhancing fighting capabilities, bigger involvement in decision-making or simply welfare of the veterans.

    In his short tenure, Jaitley set the ball rolling and took prompt decisions towards some important deals. He paved the way for Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters for the IAF, approved Israeli anti-tank missile over the US system, scrapped the controversial tender for 197 Light Utility Helicopters and opened projects for the Indian industry — including the Avro transport aircraft replacement programme which stands at single vendor stage at present — in line with Modi’s Make in India slogan.

    Among the projects likely to feature on Parrikar’s priority list is a decision on 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, which has been awaiting final approval after having zeroed down on French Dassault Rafale in January 2012. The contract is crucial for the depleted fighter fleet of IAF, which had its Sukhoi fleet grounded since October 22.

    Also, while Jaitley in his last Defence Acquisition Council meeting cleared a project for the construction of six submarines in India, experts said his successor will hopefully take it further to ensure timely delivery. This is crucial for the Navy which in 1999 envisaged 24 submarines by 2030 but has been operating at a much lower strength. Hopefully, the new Defence Minister will set in procedures that will ensure time-bound implementation of this project, which was supposed to start in 2008.

    The prime need of the Army, according to a top officer, is its artillery arm, which has not had a single acquisition after the Bofors scandal broke, besides immediate replacement for its ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopter fleet, anti-aircraft guns and night-fighting capabilities for its armoured and infantry regiments.

    “While the present government opened tenders for Indian industries, there is a need for policy decisions pertaining to taxation, licensing, exports to ensure that the Indian industry comes up to the ability to produce,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur.

    He emphasised on higher defence management — more involvement of the services in decision-making bodies.

    Experts said the new government has already sent out a “firm” message to Pakistan over ceasefire violations. Also, Jaitley had indicated the increased impetus the government gives to projects along the China border. Both these aspects, experts said, need continuation.

    “The latest response of calling off dialogue with Pakistan after it held talks with J&K separatists, or the response to ceasefire violations has been befitting. The only way to deal with Pakistan is to make misadventures expensive for that country — a line aptly used by Jaitley.
    This needs continuation,” said a general. “While the China issue is more diplomatic, the government’s decisions to give environmental and forest clearances to defence projects along the borders is a welcome step,” he said.

    Last, but not the least, the Modi government came to power promising one-rank-one-pension (OROP), war memorial and a veterans’ commission to address their grievances among others. While the war memorial proposal seems to have progressed with budgetary allocation of Rs 100 crore, clarity on OROP is yet to come.
    - See more at: Defence Minister Parrikar has his hands full | The Indian Express | Page 99

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