NEW DELHI:After years of somnolence under the lacklustre leadership of A K Antony, which put the combat capability of the Indian armed forces back by years, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has decided it is time to take direct charge, to give the forces maximum fighting capability. After Modi’s surprise announcement in France of the $8 billion Rafale fighter jet deal by passing bureaucratic procedure, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has put delayed projects on the fast track. Babus—used to dozing in their roomy South Block offices when they are not playing golf—have been shaken out of stupor as Modi sets the agenda for them. Used to pushing files at a snail’s pace, defence ministry mandarins find life suddenly action-packed with the PMO’s eagle eye on acquisition and upgradation developments. Regular action-taken reports and accountability are the operational byword.
Also Read: PMO Rotates Strike to Steer Defence Block
Sample this. Javed Ashraf, an IFS officer who handles matters of defence and external affairs in the PMO, and follows up on Modi’s visit itineraries, is constantly on the phone with Service Headquarters, seeking updates on key acquisitions. Sources say Ashraf seeks daily reports from the defence ministry on all deals, to remove roadblocks.
IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshall SBS Sinha, who heads the negotiation committee to work out the modalities of the Rafale deal, is briefing Ashraf regularly.
Deals on Fast track
■ 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy lift helicopters with the US ($3 bn)
■ Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft with Russia
■ Ultra-light howitzers lined up with the UK ($885 mn)