Jaitley given charge of defence ministry

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was on Monday given the additional responsibility of the defence ministry following the resignation of Manohar Parrikar, who is set to become the chief minister of Goa.

“As advised by the Prime Minister, the President has directed that Arun Jaitley, Cabinet Minister, shall be assigned the charge of the Ministry of Defence, in addition to his existing portfolio,” a communiqué from the Rashtrapati Bhavan read.

Jaitley served as the defence minister for almost six months (May 26 to November 9, 2014) before Parrikar stepped in.

Parrikar leaves his South Block office about 28 months after the IITian was drafted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to carry out several big-ticket reform measures in the defence sector.

Tasks at hand
A priority task for the new defence minister would be to accelerate the modernisation of the armed forces, besides kickstarting defence manufacturing in India in a big way.
As the military is short of fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and artillery guns, Jaitley and his successor will have to find ways to bridge the gap quickly.

With Jaitley holding the portfolios of finance and defence, he would also have to take a call on the proposed non-lapsable fund on capital procurement.

Parrikar approved the idea — recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence — and forwarded the file to Jaitley’s ministry in February, where it is pending at the moment.

Finalising the strategic partnership model to allow the private sector a big-time entry into defence manufacturing is another pending task.

While Parrikar overhauled the defence procurement procedure and transformed the blacklisting policy, without the strategic partnership model, India is unlikely to witness ‘Make in India’ in the defence sector in a big way.