Burdened with additional portfolio of defence ministry, Arun Jaitley has called a key meeting of defence ministry on Sunday afternoon to discuss several pending projects, which his predecessor left for him due to his abrupt departure from South Block to his home state Goa as chief minister.
According to defence sources, Jaitley has called the first ever meeting of defence acquisition council (DAC), the highest body in the ministry for military modernization and purchases on Sunday, which will be attended by top officials of the defence ministry. Various defence projects, including finalisation of vexed clause of Strategic Partnership (SP) in the Defence Procurement Policy(DPP) and the Blacklisting policy, which has been hanging in balance for a year.
Besides, Jaitley led DAC will also discuss the reforms, recommended by a committee headed by Lt General (retired) DB Shekatkar, on enhancing the combat potential of India’s three armed forces, rationalising the defence budget, and improving the teeth-to-tail ratio. Parrikar had set up the committee in months after taking over in 2015 and the committee submitted its report on December last year.
“Nearly 90 recommendations of Sheketkar committee have been finalized along with other military reforms. It is expected to be placed on the table for Sunday’s DAC alongwith discussion of strategic partnership and blacklisting policy,” said a senior defence ministry official.
Parrikar’s abrupt departure from the South Block has virtually left several critical tasks unfinished, including military reforms and enhancing Make in India policy. From new procurement policy to give more push to private players in defence sector to coming out with blacklisting policy that gives defence ministry enhanced powers to check in defence deals, Parrikar’s unfinished agenda will be certainly be a challenge for Jaitley, who has been given defence as additional portfolio.
In fact, Jaitley has been finding difficult to manage to two critical ministries, but has made it clear to the officials of the defence ministry that he is going to spend more time in the south block.
“Knowing the gravity of the ministry, the Minister spends nearly three to four hours in the first half of the day in defence ministry and remaining day in clearing files of finance ministry till late night. Since, Parliament is also in the session, he could only schedule a meeting of DAC on Sunday afternoon,” an officer added.
Jaitley’s predecessor Manohar Parrikar approved record number of military purchases of over Rs 2 lakh crore in his tenure of two years including several critical purchases including purchase of 21 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers along with 145 howitzers and bulk production of 18 Dhanush artillery guns to strengthen its artillery firepower, which has been seen any purchases since Bofors scandal.