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Tough Defence minister needed

Friday, June 01, 2018

The decision of the Defence minister to throw open the roads in cantonments may have pleased her political colleagues who need votes during elections. But opening roads is hardly the hallmark of performance of the Defence minister. The question is – can she defend the country? The answer is a loud NO. For a Defence minister to be effective, he or she has also to be the ultimate Finance minister of her ministry. If the Defence minister has to go time and again to the Finance minister with a begging bowl and say 'bhavathi bhikshan dehi', then the defence of the country is not the responsibility of the Defence minister but that of the Finance minister. Has any Finance minister ever been held responsible for any of our Defence snafus? Examine deeply and you will find they are equally culpable. Recall what Manekshaw told Y.B. Chavan, the then Finance minister at the famous meeting in March 1971 before the Bangladesh war. Nothing has changed since then. The Defence budget is grandly announced and then nothing is spent and it is used to shore up the deficit. In fact not only the Defence minister but it is the plight of every minister who needs funds to run his ministry – they are supplicants of the Finance ministry. Only one ministry was independent and that too has gone – Railways. Coming back to defence – can the Defence minister or Army chief, or actually the Defence secretary (who under GoI Rules, 1961 is responsible for defending the nation) give a certificate to Parliament that the armed forces have enough to fight a two-front war for the minimum number of days? What we need is a heavyweight as a Defence minister. Say Mohan Bhagwat or even Amit Shah.
 — T.R. Ramaswami,
 

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