By Manu Pubby & MEERA MOHANTY, ET Bureau | 11 May, 2015, 03.20AM IST
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar opened up to ET on a range of issues — from modernisation of the armed forces to reforms and policy changes. In an interview with ET, Parrikar spoke on alleged Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, changes in defence procurement, and PM Narendra Modi’s detractors.
Do the forces have enough money to modernise? There have been voices of a fund crunch from the three armed forces and some concerns in terms of low spending on the military.
As a percentage of total expenditure of the government of India, the spending on defence has gone up from 12.2% two years back to 13.8% this year. I think that the wise use of money is more important than just having more amount of spending on defence. I am working on it and that is why I have been asking the forces for their priorities. On the Rafale deal, for example, we are ordering just 36. If we had ordered 126, it would have been 3.75 times the cost. Yes, there are money issues but spending more effectively is more important.
What are the next steps in the Rafale deal and how will it be linked to the Made in India concept?
The basic message is that the Rafale deal has been restricted in number. By doing this, we will free about Rs 60,000-65,000 crore – money which will be used for Make in India. Even in the Rafale deal, we will have 50% offsets. So this will take care of partial Make in India. But more than that, we now have money released for activities that can be carried out in improving and speeding up the LCA (Light Combat Aircraft). We can have 10-12 squadrons as MiG 21 replacements.
The army says infiltration has come down on the Line of Control but there are indications that the international border controlled by the BSF has seen more activity. What do you attribute this to?
The IB comes under the home ministry so I cannot comment on it but in the last 2-3 months things have been calm. There was some cross-border firing in October-January but that has come down. You cannot stop someone else from doing something but when there was a proper retaliation, the resolve was clearly indicated through our reaction to their misadventure. As of now (firing) has come to a substantial low level. On the army border (LoC), the firing is way down because of stricter action that has been planned.
How do you deal with a terrorist like Lakhvi who operates from across the border?
A terrorist has to be neutralised. I am not using the word for a “suspected terrorist” but for someone we know is a terrorist. Any terrorist who has acted against the interests of this country has to be brought to book, or, if he uses violent methods, should be neutralised. Certain issues cannot be discussed but I feel that for any enemy of the country, all types of methods should be used to neutralise them. Neutralise does not mean just killing, it means any method that makes them nonfunctional — get him to jail or to make him ineffective in any manner.
How is the ministry tackling issues of defence reforms, like the appointment of a new Chief of Defence Staff and the revamping of DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organisation)?
On a joint chief, we will take a view in May-June. Forward movements will be after two months. Let the DRDO chief come in (by May 25) — a lot of things will depend on that. Also, immediately a scientific advisor will also be appointed. In the meanwhile, reforms are being worked out. For example, we are forming a missile team with DRDO, air force, army and navy representatives that will go into the full ecosystem of missile requirements — what we require, how many we require and whether we can work out improvements will be discussed. We will do a similar system for helicopters and artillery.
On Make in India, there are several projects, from artillery guns to aircraft, being discussed. Do we have the resources and right policy for these to go through?
The financial provision will be taken care of. Make in India has nothing to do with finance but to do with making in India rather than importing. We are revamping the defence procurement procedure and have formed a committee on this under Dhirendra Singh, former home secretary, and seven-eight others. By June, it should be on board.
What are your views on the necessity of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in J&K?
To continue or not with AFSPA in J&K is a decision of the home ministry…I will not express my views on it, but if the army has to operate in the area, it needs AFSPA. It is a necessity of operations and an operator cannot do without it.
PM Modi and his policies have recently come under attack from several from the BJP, including Arun Shourie.
An attack on Modi is nothing new. People always attack those who are important in the government. As far as Shourie is concerned, he does not have the full brief of what is happening. It is a nation of 125 cr people and getting results is not an easy task.
Madhu Asramam (kuwait) 36 Minutes ago
If present defence minister is able to change the so called white elephant of DRDO in to an institution which can meet the challenge of delivering most sophisticated weapons to Indian defence forces-things are to be unpredictable. But it is not sure when it will be achievable.