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I’ll be available round the clock for military priorities: Nirmala Sitharaman

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said her priority will be preparedness of the armed forces and giving them every equipment required to perform their duty.

india Updated: Sep 07, 2017 20:24 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala Sitharaman,defence minister,Indian army
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman comes out of her office after taking charge at South Block in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)

India’s new defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday her top priorities would be military preparedness, developing weapons and systems under the Make in India initiative, welfare of soldiers and attending to long-pending issues.

Shortly after taking charge, she said: “My priority will definitely be the armed forces’ preparedness. It is important that Indian armed forces receive all attention in terms of giving them every endowment and equipment necessary for them to perform their duty.”

She said military priorities would be well attended to and she shall be available round-the-clock.

Her comments came at a time when the military is struggling to fill capability gaps with the induction of new fighters, submarines, helicopters, tanks, artillery guns and even assault rifles.

The military needs to scale up its capabilities swiftly to counter the threat of a two-front war with Pakistan and China. Underlining the need to stay prepared for such a scenario, army chief General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday said China had started flexing its muscles and Pakistan was likely to take advantage of the situation unfolding along the northern border.

Sitharaman is the first woman to be the full-time defence minister of the country after Indira Gandhi held the portfolio 35 years ago when she was prime minister.

Sitharaman said the Make in India initiative to cut dependence on weapon imports was important in the government’s scheme of things.

The minister said she would resolve pending defence-related issues in consultation with the Prime Minister and the cabinet committee on security.

Apart from speeding up modernisation, the minister will also be tasked with ushering in military reforms, including creation of a chief of defence staff as principal military adviser to the government, restructuring the Defence Research and Development Organisation and setting up special operations, space and cyber commands to fight future wars.

One of the first files she signed after taking over was on releasing Rs 13 crore from the Armed Forces Flag Day Fund for the welfare of 8,685 retired soldiers, widows and their dependents.

Sitharaman and home minister Rajnath Singh attended a function at the DRDO Bhawan, where an armoured bus, bulletproof jackets, unmanned aerial vehicles and small arms were handed to the central armed police forces.

On Sunday, Sitharaman and navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba will travel to Goa to flag off an all-women naval sailing expedition that plans to circumnavigate the globe in eight months.

It will be a gruelling test for the navy crew of six women, who have volunteered for the expedition covering more than 21,600 nautical miles.

First Published: Sep 07, 2017 18:28 IST