Dressed in a pair of grey pants, trademark half-sleeved shirts, a leather sandals and a pair of glasses and above all, an ever smiling face, that’s how our Ex-Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was. He had an image of an always accessible yet go-getter politician who was known for revolutionizing the Defence Ministry like never before.
He was the first IIT-ian to become a Chief Minister of any state and then country’s Defence Minister. His tenure of two and half years in the NDA government was action packed and full of turbulence as well. However, his tenure is known for some path breaking and gutsy decisions, which paved the way of India’s newfound attitude to deal with the adversaries.
We have listed some extraordinary achievements of Manohar Parrikar, which has changed the course of Indian Defence forever.
A Defence Minister, who was an Aam Aadmi at heart
Parrikar ji was known for his friendly and extremely approachable nature. High level Military meetings are known for their stiff environment, however it was Parrikar Ji who brought an easy going aam aadmi charm to such tough military environment, which has been appreciated by few top Military Commanders. The Defence Ministry and Military establishment was in awe of his sincerity, simplicity and leadership. Many people used to call him an original Aam Aadmi of Indian politics.
A Technocrat, who bring the Technical Expertise at Defence Ministry
Few people know that Parrikar ji was a metallurgist, he did BTech in metallurgical engineering from IIT-Bombay, and before joining the active politics, he was an owner of two nondescript hydraulic engineering units, employing more than 20 people. This technical background gave him the motivation to investigate, review and assess the military technology and take the good decisions.
Surgical Strikes – ‘Ye naya Bharat hai, ye ghar me ghus kar maarega’
His nearly 3 years of tenure saw 2 Surgical strikes across the border. The first one against Naga insurgents in Myanmar in June 2015 to respond to the killing of 18 Indian Army Soldiers in an ambush by NSCN-K group Terrorists.
The second one and the most famous one across the Line of Control into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, which was carried out to avenge the killing of of 18 Indian troops at Uri in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016.
One Rank One Pension – A long pending demand of our Armed Forces
OROP was unarguably the biggest challenge for Manohar Parrikar ji. It was an extremely emotive issue for the our Armed Forces an their families.In handling this matter, Parrikar ji demonstrated quick administrative grasp of complex issues, and an acumen to take difficult decisions to address tricky issues. The earlier Congress government earmarked paltry Rs 500 Crores for OROP implementation, whereas Parrikar ji did a mother of all negotiations with Finance Ministry and ensured our Armed Forces their rightful dues, which costed exchequer approx Rs. 10,000 Crore at that time.
Super quick Rafale, Apache and Chinook Deals
It was Parrikar ji who supervised tough price negotiations with the French Government to clinch the Rafale fighter jet. Other big ticket deals, which were pending for almost decades, were signed under his watch included the multi-billion contracts for the Apache and Chinook helicopters, and the tracked self-propelled and ultra-light artillery guns. Parrikar ji envisioned the current global Geo-Political situation and ensured that our Armed forces have enough firepower to deal with any adversary.
Restructuring the Defence Ministry and Procurement process
Defence procurement is an aching heal for any Indian Government, due to the money and public scrutiny involved. Parrikar ji’s primary mandate was to clean up Defence procurement process and prepare the ground for the Make in India agenda in defence production.
Under his leadership, the MoD invoked the government’s emergency financial powers to sign contracts with Russian manufacturers to procure ammunition and spares. He was the one who appointed a committee to review the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). This committee ironed out several shortcomings of Defence procurement and made them effective and quick. Under his tenure, India procured Ammunition reserve and ensured we have enough of reserve left to take care of any short or long war.
No flip-Flops and No Delay in procurement
Defence Procurement are infamous for flip-flops and unnecessary delays. Due to these the procurement got delayed, the cost of procurement jumped many fold and sometimes it happened that by the time the Item is delivered, it is already outdated. Parrikar ji ensured that once the procurement is decided, then there is no flip-flops on their requirements and no delays occur. The shining example are procurement of Rafael, Chinook and Apache, all these procurement were submitted few years ago and most of them have been delivered or shall be delivered in next few months.
Clean and Non-Corrupt Practices
Parrikar ji was known for his clean and non-corrupt image. He ensured that all the loopholes are filled and there was little scope for scams and scandals in the sensitive ministry. Though he did take some time to learn the ropes and the processes, but he left an unmatched imprint.
FDI in Defence Sector
Foreign Direct Investment used to be a big NO in Defence Sector. However it was Parrikar ji who increased FDI in the defence sector to 74 per cent from 49 per cent.The DPP 2016 was issued in April 2016 coinciding with the raising of FDI in defence to 49 percent.
Make In India – promoted local manufacturing and Talent
Given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call for ‘Make in India’ with relation to defence equipment, he was instrumental in calling the foreign players to setup their manufacturing units in India and sign TOT (Transfer of Technology) contracts with several private players in India.
He also ensured that the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is inducted in the Indian Air Force’s fleet, besides taking steps to ease the process of local manufacturing in the defence sector. He introduction of the Strategic Partner Model to bring the private sector into the Defence R&D and manufacturing.
He also focused on accelerating the missiles development and induction. He inaugurated two advanced R&D facilities at the RCI Outdoor RCS Test Facility called ORANGE at Dundigal and KAUTILYA Advanced Research Centre at Missile Complex in Hyderabad
Improved MOD and Military relationship
It is again an extremely sensitive issue, Ministry of Defence and our Armed Forces are always at loggerheads, be it an OROP issue, any procurement process issue or may be litigation going on between MOD and Armed Forces personnel. Parrikar ji sensed that all was not well with the MoD and Armed forces.
He started to ironed out the differences by forming a committee for reduction of litigation in MoD. He implemented recommended practical actions, which not just reduce the litigation but also improve the relationship between service personnel and the bureaucracy which handled their cases relating to disability, pension and several other issues.
Unfortunately, he gone too soon due to cancer. However, there is no debate that he was the ‘Best Defence Minister’ India ever had. Within such a short span of less than 3 years, he did a marvelous job, sorted out so many issues and strengthen our forces like never before. He will always be missed for his contribution towards our Nation.
To honour his commitment and legacy Modi Government decided to rename country’s premier research and policy think tank ‘The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses’ (IDSA) after him, this institute is now known as ‘Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses’. We salute the legacy of Manohar Parrikar.