Nirmala Sitharaman became India’s second woman defence minister after she was elected to the Cabinet. Indira Gandhi had served as the defence minister in 1975 and again in 1980-82. However, Sitharaman is the first woman to hold this position full-time.
Sitharaman, who was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu’s temple city, is now heading World’s third largest defence force, which has 1.4 million personnel.
Sitharaman formerly served as a Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs under the Ministry of Finance and the Minister for Commerce and Industry with independent charge. Before that, she acted as a national spokesperson for the Bhartiya Janata Party. When BJP came to power in 2004, she was first allotted a Rajya Sabha seat, from Andhra Pradesh.
Sitharaman’s excellent links across the world were visible while she held charge of commerce. She handled the H1-B visa issue with the US in recent weeks. These links will no doubt be very useful as defence preparedness moves into a high gear.
Her links in the US will be even more useful in the light of the India-US cooperation on Afghanistan and larger strategic partnerships of which US president Donald Trump spoke about a week ago. Perhaps, it will fall as much to Sitharaman as to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval or external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to translate that speech into practical steps for cooperation action.
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