'I am the Defence Minister, and my concern is India's defence'

Says current arrangement is inadequate, and integration of forces is needed.

Updated - April 21, 2017 06:00 pm IST

Published - May 26, 2015 01:20 am IST

India’s current defence arrangement is inadequate and needs an individual or body like the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to look at the integration of forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said here on Monday.

“I will take a call on it maybe in July or so. But to be frank, it is not my decision. The decision has to be of the Cabinet Committee on Security… ” he told The Hindu when asked about the Modi government’s view.

“So I will put up my proposal… Let it be discussed by various people concerned and then we will come to a conclusion. I believe that there should be a body, which will see the integration of forces,” he said at his South Block office.

Pointing out that the situation on the Line of Actual Control with China was better than earlier, Mr. Parrikar said he viewed China as a “healthy competitor” in the economic field, whose success in manufacturing he would like to replicate in India.

On the boundary question, the Defence Minister felt that slowly, over a period of time, issues with China would cool down and get resolved but if someone “expects overnight resolution, that might not be possible”.

Here is the full interview :

Mr. Parrikar, your comments on using terrorists to kill terrorists have created a controversy…

I think you have a website video — I think courtesy Aaj Tak — that shows the full five-minute clip. I don’t have to say anything on the issue.

The Pakistani Defence Minister has reacted to your comments, and his claim is that these show India is fomenting terror in Pakistan. How do you react to that?

You listen to what I have said and in what context. If you see the context, the question was on 39 terror camps in Pakistan. So I don’t have to answer any further on the issue. I am the Defence Minister of India, and my concern is about the defence of India. So beyond that, I don’t think it deserves any further clarification or information.

We see all other countries engaging with the Pakistani Army Chief directly. The previous regime had invited him here. Do you think that India needs to engage directly with the Pakistani Army?

Exactly what I am trying to point out. You are getting me into the field of [External Affairs Minister] Sushmaji [Swaraj]. You should go to Sushmaji with this question. My job is to create an environment where my security forces are prepared all the time, and you will find them prepared. When an emergency requirement was there, we managed to help our neighbours, we got water to Male, we got our ships in Yemen from where not only Indian nationals but also other nationals, including Pakistanis, were rescued by us. We didn’t say that they are Pakistanis because it was a humanitarian issue. But we were the only country which could do that. We went to Nepal quickly [after the earthquake]. So wherever we are on call, we have reacted immediately.

Today, the Defence Ministry’s role is not used for diplomatic or soft targets. Soft methodology is normally used in political or diplomatic channels. The Defence Ministry is the hard way. So we have to strengthen our forces. Strengthen it to a level that anyone should think twice before considering any misadventure.

So you are quite confident in your preparation…

My preparation I am confident of what we are doing. We are building up our strength. Again I am very clear. My strength is based on my national interests and it is [a] defensive posture. But even in [a] defensive posture, if your strength is adequate and that adequate strength is expressed, I don’t see any reason there should be any talk about threat.

The Kargil review committee had recommended the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). What is the government’s current thinking?

I will take a call on it, maybe in July or so. But to be frank, it is not my decision. The decision has to be of the Cabinet Committee on Security, and the call has to be taken by a security committee. So I will put up my proposal, maybe in July, for consultation, let it be discussed by various people who are concerned and then we will come to a conclusion. I believe that there should be a body which will see the integration of forces. The current arrangement is inadequate, according to me.

So in your view, a CDS could be required?

The name itself doesn’t have much meaning. What is important is whether the person has the appropriate authority to integrate the forces and to whom his responsibility lies and to what extent. I will give a very simple example. For any Army to proceed, you require cover by the Air Force or sometimes, even the Navy. So when the Kargil war was being fought, the Air Force was giving cover to the Army. This has to be synchronised. Now this synchrony includes acquisition of capital assets. Unnecessary duplication of assets should not be there. All these aspects the CDS can take care.

Are you happy with the way the Rafale deal has turned out for India?

That is the only solution. In fact, only [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi could have taken this kind of decision. [When it comes to] Prime Ministers in the past many years, probably Atalji [Bihari Vajpayee] showed some decision-making ability. However, I would like to add that the decision is not complete. The decision is only to acquire 36 [aircraft] at better terms. I was watching the Congress press conference, I was surprised they are not aware of exactly what had happened. They probably didn’t even take the required trouble of getting more information. Actually, [Congress leader and former Defence Ministry A.K.] Antony should have got it because he knows so many in the Defence Ministry. The decision is a joint statement at this moment. The rest is being discussed.

Is there an element of technology transfer involved in the government-to-government Rafale deal agreed to by the Modi government?

I will not talk about it until all talks are complete. Then we will come very clear, transparently. You don’t discuss issues when they are under negotiation and consideration. It will be foolish. It’s just like you don’t discuss publically what is in the court if you a party. Third person can always do it. I can’t do it because I am a party to it, my ministry is a party to it. Let them have the talks, let them come out with some conclusion… It can assure you it will be so transparent you will not have to ask again.

Are you satisfied with the situation on the Line of Actual Control with China?

The day I am satisfied, you will not ask me this question. And how would you describe the situation? Do you think with Prime Minister’s visit to China have things improved? I can say it was better than it was earlier. Prime Minister’s visit abroad has improved things a lot in defence. It has actually strengthened India’s position in defence to a level where I think what could not have been achieved over many years has been achieved in one year.

Do you see China as a competitor, rival or enemy?

I will always consider it a healthy competitor for growth in economic activity, and I would like to repeat China’s success story in manufacturing.

In terms of our defence issues with the Chinese, how would you rate that issue?

Slowly, over time, I think issues will cool down and get resolved. But if someone expects overnight resolution, that may not possible. What is simmering for the past 66-67 years cannot be expected to be solved overnight.

Now there is a strong government in Delhi, and after 30 years, you have one with a full majority. Do you think this is the time for the two governments to take bold decisions to resolve the boundary issue?

Many bold initiatives are being taken. In fact, the very progressive nation-building steps which Modi is taking have the opponents worried. Their attitude to stop the government is not because they are convinced about irrationality or illogical steps being taken. But the steps being taken by the government is going to actually make the nation grow. They are worried on that.

Because if that happens, they are history. Otherwise, the Congress can’t speak on the issue of land acquisition. The biggest scams between 2009 and 2012 are by the Congress in land acquisition for special economic zones.

But your party has supported the Land Bill when the UPA government brought it…

Yes, I agree with you. You bring it in an election year and ask for support. See here, a lot of political natak [drama] happens. The best thing I like about this Prime Minister is his clear thinking, he has long-term thinking and guts to take decisions. Let someone come [from the Congress and debate] with me on these issues. Poora khatam kar doonga [will finish them in the debate] because I know what all they have done. This is their common strategy. Once they go out of power, they feel suffocated and they try all these chota mota [small things] so that their misdeeds are not exposed. The government is kept busy fighting them.

Do you think you should have done more to expose the “misdeeds” of the Congress in the past one year?

It will happen.

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