NEW DELHI: A political heavyweight, Rajnath Singh joins as the Defence Minister at a time when the forces are at the cusp of major organisational and operational changes.
The task at hand for the new minister will be to smoothly implement the major restructuring envisaged for the Army, to bolster the dwindling combat squadrons of the Air Force with newer acquisitions, while speeding up the upgrade of the indigenous Tejas.
He will also need to speedily acquire strategic weapons and create the truly Blue Water Navy and arm it with sophisticated submarines, futuristic aircraft carriers and combat aircraft.
Lt-Gen Vinod Bhatia, Director of Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, said force accretion is an imperative from which the ministry cannot run away. “Modernization to meet the threat perceptions, squarely facing operational challenges and making rapid technological changes with the available resources will be the basics for the new Defence Minister,” he said.
Laxman Behera, Research Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis feels, “Make in India needs to be the focus of the modernization plans for which strategic partnerships will be needed to acquire sophisticated and cutting edge technologies. Once resolved, such partnerships will help the country indigenize and rapidly induct strategic platforms to defend the country,” he said.
“Cutting timelines for the projects undertaken by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Ordnance Factory Board should be a priority, while introducing reforms within such big set-ups,” added a serving senior officer on condition of anonymity.
“Time lags and escalation in prices are things a modern set up cannot afford,” he said
Rajnath Singh will be presiding over the important task of weaning the country away from the rank of top weapon importers.
But this will also depend on the Defence Budget, which for the last several years, has been inadequate to meet the cost of needed acquisitions to modernize the forces.