As good defence ministers are expected to be, Pranab Mukherjee is a low-level, quick reaction defence minister. These qualities, rather remarkably, happen to be the same ones that the indigenous surface-to-air missile Trishul possesses. Unlike Mr Mukherjee, however, one cannot judge the efficacy of the missile that the minister now insists is still in the making. Why? Because it is yet to see the light of day, that’s why.
Mr Mukherjee was very categorical this week, scotching rumours that have taken on the sheen of facts, that the news of the death of the Trishul programme is greatly exaggerated. It is best, even when one is forming an opinion on the matter, to hear it from the horses’s mouth once again: “There has been some confusion about the shelving of the Trishul project. I would like to point out that it’s still on.” This time, the deadline for completion is December 2007. If you heard a snigger from us, you must be mistaken.
The Trishul project — bless it! — was sanctioned by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1983, a year after Delhi last hosted the Asian Games and when the Amitabh Bachchan-starring Coolie was released. The Indian Navy waited for the missile till about 2000, after which it went shopping and bought the Israeli Barak system. But good things take time, not to mention things for which about Rs 250 crore has already been spent. So as Mr Mukherjee brings us the reassuring news, we shall hold our breath for Trishul to appear.