Manohar Parrikar has returned to Goa after heading the defence ministry for two years and four months. An outsider in Delhi, Parrikar was quick to grasp the intricacies of the ministry, the working of the armed forces and the challenges of modernising the military in the face of shrinking budgets.
On a day finance minister Arun Jaitley took over additional charge of the defence portfolio, HT lists five high point’s of Parrikar’s tenure:
One rank-one pension: Parrikar deserves credit for implementation of the OROP scheme in 2015. A more than four-decade-old demand, the scheme grants equal pension to military personnel retiring in the same rank with the same length of service, regardless of the date of retirement.
Nearly three million ex-servicemen and widows benefitted from the scheme. Implementing the scheme cost the government between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000 crore, a figure that will increase in future.
Some issues are still unresolved but the government is examining a report prepared by a one-member committee that delved into various aspects of the pension scheme.
Military modernisation: His tenure as defence minister saw the inking of some major defence contracts. The main projects concluded include a $8.7 billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets, a $ 3.1-billion order for 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers and a $750-million deal for 145 ultra-light howitzers (M777) from the US.
The defence ministry’s acquisition council also gave the green light to several key projects including 420 air defence guns for Rs 16,900 crore, 814 artillery guns for Rs 15,750 crore and 118 Arjun Mk-II tanks for Rs 6,600 crore. However, critical gaps still need to be addressed, ranging from bullet-proof vests, assault rifles to minesweepers, choppers and submarines.
Surgical strikes: Parrikar’s term saw India not only carry out surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Myanmar but also claim political ownership of the targeted operations. The daring move won accolades from political leaders and civil society alike.
The surgical strikes demonstrated India’s hardened military resolve to the world. Parrikar said last year’s surgical strikes against terror pads in PoK had injected uncertainty into the neighbour’s mind.
The army’s cross-border operation came after 19 soldiers were killed in an attack on an army base in Kashmir’s Uri that India blames on militants who crossed from the Pakistani territory.
Strategic partnership with the US: Parrikar’s term witnessed the signing of the long-pending logistics exchange memorandum of agreement (LEMOA) with the US. The LEMOA sets down the guidelines for the armed forces of India and the US to share each other’s assets and facilities for repairs, maintenance, supplies and training on an equal-value exchange basis.
The LEMOA is one of the three foundational agreements proposed by the US more than a decade ago for tailoring a more robust strategic partnership. There’s been no progress on the other two: the communications interoperability and security memorandum of agreement (CISMOA) that will allow India to access CISMOA-controlled secure equipment and the basic exchange and cooperation agreement (BECA) for exchange of geospatial information such as maps, charts, imagery and other data for digital mapping.
Parrikar’s personal rapport with his then US counterpart Ash Carter played a key role in broadening the scope of Indo-US defence cooperation.
Lean and mean military: Parrikar was focused on how the military could be made more effective and defence budget be better utilised.
He appointed a 11-member panel, headed by Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (retd), that has given its recommendations on how more money can be funnelled into scaling up military capabilities and what steps should be taken to improve the military’s tooth-to-tail-ratio -- the number of personnel (tail) required to support a combat soldier (tooth).
The report is being studied by the government. The panel prepared the report by taking into account the existing models of workforces and budgets of leading militaries, including China’s People’s Liberation Army, for a comparative analysis.