Nirmala Sitharaman’s brief story of becoming the first full time female union defence minister

Image: India’s very first female Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Boosting the position of women in India’s widely misogynistic democracy, Nirmala Sitharaman was yesterday sworn in as the Union Minister for Defence in the Modi government’s 3rd cabinet reshuffle. Taking away the portfolio from the Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley, who was handling it along with the portfolio for Finance. Thus, she is primarily India’s first Full-time female Defence minister after Indira Gandhi who had partly held its portfolio during her Prime Minister-ship.

Nirmala is a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate (BJP) who had won her seat in the Rajya Sabha from the state of Karnataka. She has previously held the ministry of commerce, as a minister of State. She was a key facilitator of Narendra Modi’s ‘Start-up India’ as well as ‘Make in India’ programs.

Her victory becomes a cheering point for Indian women’s rights activists as she becomes the second woman on the prestigious Cabinet Committee of Security.

Some of the major issues that face her as of now will be the upgradations of the equipments and strategies in the armed forces as the CAG keeps pointing out slack in the sector. Apart from it, she would be managing international relationships with concerns in the defence section such as deciding policies for the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative by our Chinese neighbours and so forth and so on.

Sitharaman’s prowess in dealing with commercial aspects of the country may come in great use when cracking international defence understandings under this portfolio. Sitharaman, apart from having that prowess and understanding to crack international defence deals also has an above-par proficiency in speaking English.

Adding invaluable credits to Sitharaman’s long standing career is her master’s degree from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Sitharaman began as a part of the National Commission for Women (NCW) from 2003 to 2005 and then, on recommendation by Sushma Swaraj (while being a member of NCW) she joined the BJP party.

Soon after, she was promoted to hold the position of becoming the BJP’s national spokesperson. Under the ministry of commerce from 2014, Sitharaman has consistently represented India’s economic interests very strongly and very staunchly on international platforms such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) (where she very staunchly put forth India’s interests impressing many people higher in the hierarchy).

Modi’s appointment of Sitharaman to the high profile ministerial position came as surprise to a whole lot of individuals who were usually in the know of such appointments. Sitharaman, commenting on her appointment said  “Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into the party with all the support of the leadership, and given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise, it is impossible”

According to a government official as reported by the Economic Times, “Her biggest challenge will be to understand the concept and structure of the defence forces. Similarly, she will have to understand the problems involved in modernisation, counter-terrorism, troop deployment along the two most important borders, jointness between the forces, etc,”

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