Why Nirmala Sitharaman Is A Solid Choice For Defence Minister

Nirupama Soundararajan 7th September 2017

When Nirmala Sitharaman takes on strength as India’s new defence minister today, one of the biggest, most daunting challenges on her table will be fixing her new ministry’s roadmap for Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India paradigm. The new office she occupies carries with it the difficult charge of executing and delivering on the country’s most ambitious promise in the defence space — an unprecedented degree of self-reliance borne from a mixture of foreign investment and private sector ramp-up, coupled with the consolidation and elevation of India’s defence supply base. Ms Sitharaman already knows her job is one of the toughest on Raisina Hill. She also knows that in her hands stands entrusted her political leadership’s flagship scheme.

The biggest problem that India’s defence industrial space faces is the multiplicity of producers — small, large, public sector, private sector, MSME, foreign — and the maze of decision-making agencies, including the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Commerce, Cabinet Committees, and literally countless sub-committees, councils and task forces. It is tempting to believe they work cohesively, with trust and agility but they generally don’t. And this is despite the fact that all of them work for one consumer – the Government of India. Defence is the one sector where a monopsony — a market situation with only one buyer — is inevitable. Each stakeholder has a place and a role to play in India’s defence policy and strategy irrespective of whether they know their part. Collectively as a nation, we may choose to ignore the fact that defence is an “industry”, a business, but that is the truth. And under the revelation of...

Note: Views expressed in this blog are those of the author.