Modernisation of the armed forces, roll on defence, Make in India initiatives, strategy for Kashmir, fighting against terrorism, are some of the critical issues that the new defence minister Rajnath Singh will be dealing with. Singh who has taken charge soon as Union Minister of Defence, will be a full time minister and with his knowledge on Kashmir, modernisation and emerging security challenges will help the country’s armed forces which have been getting delayed.
According to officials, decision making will be further streamlined about the procurement of the state-of-the-art weapon systems, as well as new security challenges armed forces are facing. Once he takes charge, in the next few days the minister will be given an in-depth briefing over issues related to national security and several pending projects and most importantly about the defence budget.
Also, the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and integrated operations for the three services will be a priority which has been pending for some time will get attention and critical issues related to Defence Procurement Policy, especially the Strategic Partnership Policy which has yet to be cleared. Under the policy which was introduced in 2016, a private player and a Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) were to be selected for four specific projects which included the construction of submarines for the Indian Navy, a new fleet of naval utility helicopters, armoured vehicles and fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
Several projects have got delayed as only the public sector companies have been allowed to participate and the private sector is seeking a level playing field. So far, the performance of the public sector companies has not moved beyond licensed production, and as far as the private sector companies are concerned they need to get more involved if `Make in India’ has to succeed.
While the Indian Air Force (IAF) is waiting for the long-delayed Request for Proposals for 114 fighter aircraft to help in enhancing the dwindling numbers of the fighter squadrons. The IAF will be welcoming its first of the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France in September this year. The order for these was placed in 2016.
Other critical projects pending include new submarines and helicopters for the Indian Navy. The Indian Army is waiting for the long-delayed fast-tracked close quarter carbines; bullet proof jackets; armoured vehicles; future infantry vehicles and many more.
Another critical issue that he has to look into an urgent basis is having a long term Kashmir strategy. The new minister has dealt with Kashmir as a home minister and his expertise will help in formulating a new strategy.
Reforming the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA) is very critical to achieve self-reliance in defence manufacturing and cutting down imports.