Manohar Parrikar's hasty exit from defence ministry raises doubts over India's seriousness for national security

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Noel Tellis in a post asks why is that state priorities take precedence over national one, especially when it concerns the armed forces.

The haste with which Manohar Parrikar has left the Ministry of Defence high and dry and made the departure of casual importance does demand an answer.

Parrikar wasted no occasion to indicate how he was going to recreate the armed forces, going as far as to say that defence expenditure should rise from 1.7 percent of the GDP to 3 percent and that while he would trim the flab he would also re-arm the nation’s forces.

In his first year he allocated Rs 90,000 crores to defence and underscored a sum of Rs 70,000 crores as being in the pipeline. We are going the running to buy guns, ships, planes, drones, improve living conditions, add incentives, add muscle. All on his watch.

 Manohar Parrikars hasty exit from defence ministry raises doubts over Indias seriousness for national security

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Even as his supporters lauded his far thinking military vision and forgave him his sartorial trespasses they were vociferous in signposting his long-term plans and concern for the armed forces personnel.

In fact, The Lt Gen DB Shekatkar Committee was appointed by the government to enhance the combat potential of the armed forces and for re-balancing the defence expenditure.

It made several recommendations which were handed over to Parrikar in December 2016. These are supposed to be implemented to save the nation Rs 25000 crores and smarten up the forces.

While one concedes that Ministers are not really savvy about the portfolios they hold, in this case the former Defence Minister was the poster child for ‘hands on’ leadership and any criticism of him was met with a howl of protest. The man, it was said, had the interests of the forces uppermost in his mind and this was vital at a time when India needed to be watchful not just of Pakistan but of China’s military prowess.

Given this awesomely demanding fiat Parrikar dropped the ball pretty fast and galloped off midway to take on his fourth stint as Chief Minister of Goa. Now, while it is a beautiful place and has a delightful population it is not the core of India and not comparable to being the head of India’s military security plans.

So where was the need to leave a seriously vital job half done? Surely Goa, which has had six chief ministers in this decade with Parrikar and Pratap Singh Rane doing two separate tenures each, could have placed a seventh man without disrupting the armed forces infrastructure at this time. Doesn’t the BJP machinery have anyone capable of doing the job for a while.

It’s fine to give Arun Jaitley the added portfolio but it does beg the question of how seriously the nation is taking its national security.

The suspicion that Parrikar never really wanted this job and was happier back in the confines of Panaji makes it even more upsetting that a reluctant Minister would have been placed at the helm of defence. Is that not a rather cavalier attitude to the men and women in uniform?

There wasn’t even a formal handing over with Parrikar rushing off to Goa for the swearing in ceremony this Tuesday evening. For a state that literally has revolved its Chief Ministers and reduced it to a game of musical chairs (Rane has been the boss six times) couldn’t the deputy chief minister have held things together while Parrikar at least made the pretence of living up to his reputation of being a thorough professional and gone through a proper handing over process.

In capsule Tellis asks three valid questions:

What about the deals in the pipeline that we have globally and ignited by the former defence minister?

What about the needless fallout of changing the style of functioning in the hierarchy so suddenly for no grand reason midway in the river.

Were the three chiefs consulted on whether there would be a fallout from the overnight departure and how important was becoming Goa’s CM that there wasn’t even an immediate replacement available. It is not as if the Portuguese were at the gate and Parrikar was compelled to go into battle.

The general feeling is that the Defence Minister becomes an add on, like the Ministry of Sport.

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Updated Date: Mar 14, 2017 22:05:03 IST