New Delhi, May 27 IANS | 3 months ago

Speeding up procurement of defence equipment and indigenisation are among the top priorities, said Arun Jaitley soon after taking charge as defence minister Tuesday.


He said there should be no controversy over the appointment of the new Indian Army chief though his Bharatiya Janata Party had opposed the outgoing government's decision on this days before leaving office.

"Security of India is a matter of prime importance. It is about external security of the country and preparedness of armed forces... speeding up (procurement) of equipment required for support is the priority area," Jaitley said.

"We are concerned that in the last few years some areas have slowed down. Expediting them is a concern," he said.

On indegenisation of defence equipment, the minister said: "It is an issue, both limbs of which are dealt by my departments. It is already coming up in discussions."

He added it was an area he was "personally willing to oversee".

On the issue of Lt.Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag becoming the new army chief, Jaitley said there should be no controversy.

"I believe there should be no controversy about the appointment of any person," he told reporters.

Lt. Gen. Suhag was named the successor to army chief Gen. Bikram Singh by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government days before it left office.

The BJP then objected to the new army chief being named, saying there was no hurry and that the decision should be left to the new government.

"There were some comments on the procedure which happened when the model code of conduct was there. This should not reflect on person concerned in any manner," added Jaitley shortly after he assumed office as the new defence minister, an additional charge he has with the finance ministry.

Jaitley, who met the three Service chiefs, also expressed concern over the crash of a MiG-21 aircraft in Jammu and Kashmir earlier in the morning.

"It is a matter of great concern. My heart goes out to the pilot who lost his life," he said.

Jaitley, who also took over as the finance minister, however, said the charge of defence ministry was additional for him and a new minister would take over in "two weeks" and for now he would try to do a "balancing act".

"I will be spending reasonable amount of time here (defence ministry) to clear the backlog, and all new decisions that need to be taken. It is a very important ministry, hope it gets a full time head in next two weeks," he said.

(Posted on 27-05-2014)


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