It has been 35 years since India saw a female Defence Minister on its helm after Indira Gandhi; and in Modi’s latest Cabinet reshuffle, India got its second ever female defence minister – Nirmala Sitharaman.
Third and final reshuffle of the Modi team before Lok Sabha elections 2019 was a surprise in itself because a total of 9 new ministers were appointed, but the biggest surprise was appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as the Defence Minister of India. Till date, only one female has been appointed as Defence Minister, and that was none other than late former PM Indira Gandhi, when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. Gandhi was appointed twice – once in 1957 and again in 1980; but that was all for women on that post in India until 2017.
Defence ministry is an extremely complex job which requires a lot of precision articulation on sensitive security issues and proper application of actions. It seems like Modi-government sees both the qualities in Sitharaman who has been a BJP spokesperson as well as an alumna of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and has also worked with PwC, London and briefly with BBC World Service. While Sitharaman might call this opportunity to be ‘cosmic grace’, she has a Herculean job as the defence leader of India.
The challenges that Sitharaman will face are very huge, complex and are from wide spectrum – all these must be solved by her within a short time of 20 months, before election 2019. Fighting terrorism, protecting the country’s security and sovereignty amidst tensed situations with China and Pakistan, keep up the ongoing modernisation drive in military, develop a techno-strategy, internal issues, always-on-fire Kashmir are some to count from. Will Sitharaman prove to be an efficient to create at least in their lives.