Clamour for full-time Defence Minister grows louder

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 11, 2018

The government may announce a full-time Minister of Defence after the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which will be held from July 17 to August 11, after which a Cabinet reshuffle will be done.

A day after the dastardly terrorist attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims that claimed seven lives and injured several others, the clamour for a full-time Minister of Defence grew louder.

“The attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims was carried out by the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiyyba) and masterminded by Pakistani militant Ismail,” said Munir Khan, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir.

The attack, which took place late on Monday evening in the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, was condemned by all political parties while messages also poured in from across the world.

Calling the attacks “cowardly” President Pranab Mukherjee said such attacks target the democratic values of society and must be encountered with “determination and collective action.”

Immediately after the attacks Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that India will not get “bogged down” by such terrorist attacks.

Relief announced

The Jammu and Kashmir government headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced a relief of ₹.6 lakh to each of the seven victims and also a ₹3 lakh reward for the driver who managed to save the remaining passenger who were in the fateful bus that was attacked.

The Amaranth Yatra takes place amidst tight security with military vehicles escorting the buses plying the pilgrims. However, the bus that was attacked was not inside the security cordon raising several questions.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, where National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and top officials from both the intelligence agencies were present. Apparently, according to sources, it was decided that the security for Amarnath pilgrims will be further tightened. At present, 21,000 paramilitary personnel over and above the state police forces have been deployed for security of the pilgrimage routes.

Besides, a whopping 9,500 more paramilitary personnel have been deployed compared to last year.

However, the attack has also increased the clamour for a full-time Defence Minister within the government that is facing threat from all sides, sources told BusinessLine.

Sources said the government may announce a full-time Minister of Defence after the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which will be held from July 17 to August 11, after which a Cabinet reshuffle will be done.

“A full-time Defence Minister will certainly help matters. The situation is going to worsen and expect more such attacks with terrorists getting frustrated and becoming drastic. We have to change our tactics and upgrade our policy,” said former RAW Chief Vikram Sood.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was given the additional charge of Defence Ministry in March after Manohar Parrikar left to take charge as Goa Chief Minister.

“It is a shame that the BJP-led right-wing government doesn’t even have a full-time Defence Minister at a time when the country is attacked from several fronts. The despicable attack on the hapless Amarnath pilgrims shows that the terrorists are not willing to spare anyone to achieve their goals of spreading terror. But this is also symbolic of a systemic failure of the Indian state in Kashmir,” said Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor, Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, School of International Studies, JNU.

This is not the first time that the Amarnath pilgrims have been attacked by terrorists. The pilgrimage has been attacked thrice before in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Meanwhile, tensions with Pakistan continued to soar even as a dialogue between the two remained stalled. Border skirmishes with Pakistani army have become almost a daily phenomenon. In the east, the Indian Army remained in a stand-off position with the Chinese in the Sikkim sector.

Published on July 11, 2017

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