Unified command structure for forces under study, says Parrikar

Manohar Parrikar
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday promised a big push to indigenisation in defence purchases by increasing the share of local content to 60 per cent by 2020 from the present 35 per cent - a big fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India campaign.

He was answering questions at the Business Standard Annual Awards 2015 function in Mumbai, where he was the Guest of Honour.

At present, India gets 65 per cent of its defence buys from foreign companies - half of that through direct imports and the rest from the indirect route.

The Modi government is currently working on a new defence procurement policy that will give a priority to local companies. Many top Indian companies like the Tatas, Mahindras, Larsen & Toubro and Bharat Forge have already invested in setting up defence manufacturing units in India, thus creating jobs within India.

Asked to give a timeframe for an integrated command theatre in India's defence forces, Parrikar said the matter was under consideration and discussions were taking place in the government on this issue. "The US took four years to implement this after eight to 10 years of deliberations. Please give us some time on this," Parrikar said.

When asked what he would like to be remembered for, Parrikar said he never thought about it but strongly believed in the fact that "character is like a glass and once it gets a crack, one will never get it back". Not surprisingly, there was a deafening applause for the minister, who is known for his impeccable record of integrity and leading from the front.

On his proudest moment as minister, Parrikar said it was yet to come. But he is immensely proud of the Army's operations against Naga rebels to avenge 18 army men's deaths without a single casualty from the Indian side.

In June 2015, the Indian Army killed Naga rebels off the Myanmar border after the rebels attacked an Indian Army convoy in Manipur's Chandel district.

On the frustrations of his job, Parrikar said a change in mindset was needed in New Delhi, as the government tended to work in silos. For example, he said, armed forces might many a time require things urgently, but the ministry often was a stickler of rules and regulations.

The other problem, he said, was the overzealousness of environment lobbyists. Citing an example, Parrikar said, during the early January Pathankot attacks, terrorists climbed the 10-foot wall and entered the Indian Air Force station because of huge trees near the fence. "When we asked why the trees were not cut on the other side of the station's wall, we were told the forest department would not give permission. I strongly feel there should be a balance between development, security needs and environment," the minister said.

Responding to a question on the difference between his earlier job as the Goa Chief Minister and now a central minister, Parrikar said, tongue firmly in cheek: "You have to stay in Delhi. I had to move from a nice place like Goa to Delhi. The CM is like a king of the state… even if you have a small house, it's your own house."

Another casualty has been his sense of humour. "I have curtailed my sense of humour in Delhi as people tend to misunderstand me," Parrikar, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, said, adding he cultivated his sense of humour at his alma mater.

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