Jaitley's green light to Dalbir Singh's appointment

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 27, 2014 19:02 IST

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government on Tuesday gave green light to Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh's appointment as the next army chief after General Bikram Singh's retirement on July 31.

Shortly after taking over as the defence minister, Arun Jaitley said he believed there should be no controversy over the appointment of any person.

The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on May 13 had named Dalbir Singh as the next army chief, following the well-established seniority principle and upholding the order of succession in the force.

But there was opposition in some quarters that the appointment had been made in haste.

Laying the matter to rest, Jaitley said some comments may have been made on the procedure followed by the previous government, but it did not "reflect on the person concerned in any manner".

Jaitley, who met the three service chiefs on Tuesday, said the pace of military modernisation had slackened over the last few years and it would have to be accelerated.

He added he was holding the additional charge of the defence ministry and a "full-time" minister would be appointed after the next round of cabinet expansion "in a couple of weeks". His primary portfolio is finance and corporate affairs.

Jaitley also said speeding up the acquisition of equipment required by the armed forces would be a priority for the new government.

This year, India is expected to spend on defence 1.74% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total value of all goods and services produced within the country's boundaries.

Experts, however, argue that military spending ought to be around 3% of the GDP, seen against the backdrop of China's rising military might. The forces hope that Jaitley, as finance minister, could help raise defence spending to optimal levels.

On demands to relax the 26% cap on foreign direct investment in defence, Jaitley said, "This is an issue that would be dealt by both my departments. It has already come up in my preliminary discussions today (Tuesday) and therefore I do not want to say anything more before I look deeply into the matter."

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