Preparednes of the armed forces, push to indigenous defence production and welfare of soldiers are priority areas, said Nirmala Sitharaman after assuming charge as India’s first full-time woman Defence Minister on Thursday.
“My priority will definitely be the preparedness of the armed forces. It is important that the armed forces receive all the attention in terms of getting necessary endowment and equipment to perform their duties with the best of equipment available,” Sitharaman said.
“I will attend to all long-pending issues (related to defence), and in consultation with the Prime Minister and the cabinet… the Cabinet Committee on Security… and ensure that those issues get resolved,” Sitharaman said.
“I shall ensure that all defence priorities are well attended to. I will be available round the clock.”
“… Make in India in defence production is very important for India’s defence capabilities… it is something that will be of great importance to us,” she added.
Pointing out that India was one of the biggest defence equipment buyers in the world, Sitharaman said domestic defence production will receive a boost due to technology transfer to the country.
She said the welfare of soldiers and their families was also one of her top priorities. “Although I am saying this at the end, certainly not least in importance is the armed forces’ families and their welfare.”
“Soldiers (deployed) on the toughest border, challenging situations, should remain absolutely assured that their interests are being watched.”
Sitharaman, a former Commerce and Industry Minister, was elevated to the Cabinet Minister rank and given charge of the crucial defence portfolio in Sunday’s cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, she could not take charge as Arun Jaitley, who was holding the additional charge of defence, was on a visit to Japan for a bilateral dialogue.
Sitharaman is the first woman to hold full-time charge of the defence portfolio. In the past, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held the portfolio twice — from December 1 to December 21, 1975, and January 14, 1980, to January 15, 1982.