A ‘Nation without DEFENCE’ Minister

Dear Mr Modi,

You may find the font size and multiple colour of words in the centre heading a bit confusing. Size of the fonts and colours used for various words is by choice to convey a powerful meaning.

More than three years of your resolute governance places you ahead of virtually every Prime Minister the country has had till date. Whether it was demonetization or introducing (rather bull dozing) GST or selecting the 14th Presidential candidate, you have managed to outclass every PM, including Mrs Indira Gandhi.

But I find an uncanny similarity between you and Mrs Gandhi when viewed in the context of having a nation without ‘DEFENCE’ Minister. Mrs Gandhi destroyed and undermined the institution of ‘DEFENCE MINISTER’, when she chose to keep the defence portfolio with the PM ( herself). Perhaps she never realized that in doing so she was relegating the SERVICE CHIEFS position to an all time low. Sam Bahadur was an exception. Without any ambiguity or doubt it can be safely assumed that none of her inner circle members viz DP Dhar, RK Dhawan, and few others ever had the courage to mention to her that in keeping the Defence Portfolio with herself, she was denying access to Service Chiefs to the Defence Minister. Under no circumstances will bureaucracy allow the Service Chiefs to have direct access to the PM. Situation is very much the same even today. In fact from what I hear and infer, you Mr Modi deal with Service Chiefs through the NSA, Mr Doval as was clearly evident during Pathankot crisis, when Mr Doval took control brushing the entire institution of military aside from decision making. Although you and Mrs Gandhi belong to diametrically opposite precepts of political Ideology but on the issue of having a competent, independent, qualified and knowledgable DEFENCE MINISTER, you are in the same basket as Mrs Gandhi.

Your government has completed three years of blemish free governance (unless there are skeletons in the cupboard, we are yet to hear about that will appear in future).  There is considerable talk, albeit in whispers on your inability to appoint a full time Raksha Mantri. But I think differently and admire you for your clear and terse message to your colleagues that NONE OF THEM are competent enough to hold full time charge of Raksha Mantri. Arun Jaitely is a part timer and is more comfortable with discussing demonetization and GST implementation. Manohar Parikkar, an extremely competent and able administrator was not exactly cut out for the job walking past a formal guard of honour in sandles/chappals and addressing a former Service Chief as ‘chote aadmi’ in parliament. Your decision to place him in the basket of comfort as Chief Minister, Goa speaks volumes about your total control of the cabinet.

Mr Modi before proceeding further may I submit for your consideration that a nomenclature viz Defence Minister is an inappropriate name for a person responsible to protect and ensure sovereignty of the nation. Perhaps there is a need to change the nomenclature of Raksha Mantri.

I recommend that we in India change the nomenclature from Defence Minister to Minister of Strategic Affairs.

I am certain that you have heard the age old adage that ‘names’ have a direct bearing on personality. It would be a more appropriate name and would define the role and task of the incumbent more precisely. Till recently we had a cabinet rank minister of education. Now it is Minister of Human resource, a more and better defined appointment. Think about it!

Minister of Strategic Affairs, in my view, must have the following qualifications in order to do justice to his/her job other than being invited as reviewing officer at passing out parades at military academies of the country:-

  • Should be educated.
  • Should have knowledge of the ‘world map’.
  • Should have read Kautilya’s Arthashastra and have intimate understanding of the precepts propagated by him.
  • He/she should be ‘less of a politician’ but should have understanding of evolving world order and military strategy and be able to articulate.

Very few politicians, irrespective of their political affiliations, will meet any/all the above requirements. In your present cabinet you have two very capable, competent, confident ministers, who can articulate on matters convincingly. They are Smriti Irani and Shiv Shankar Prasad. Perhaps it is time we had a woman minister of strategic affairs. Smriti Irani fits the bill. Think about it.

Mr Prime Minister if your assumption is that the nation can be governed without having a Minister of Strategic Affairs (read Minister of Defence), then I would like to assume that the country can run without the Prime Minister as well. Both assumptions are irrational, you would agree.

Further may I submit for your kind consideration that your belief that one person can look after Ministry of Finance as well as Ministry of Defence is flawed to the core and merits immediate reversal of such decisions that impinge/will impinge on national security in foreseeable future.

Enough is enough, Mr Prime Minister! Please appoint a FULL TIME Minister of Strategic Affairs. Wishing you good health and wisdom for a second, possibly a third term!

Although not connected with this subject, keeping in view of the abusive and insulting utterances of official Chinese media, I hope sanity will prevail and in the larger interest of national prestige in international arena, you will send a powerful message to China by declining to send our NSA to China for impending meeting on 26/27 July. Believe me; this decision will earn you more ‘brownie’ points than your ‘hugs’ to heads of states.


Gp Capt TP Srivastava


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