Dear Prime Minister,

Mr Manohar Parrikar’s return to Goa has seen Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assume additional charge of the Defence Ministry. While Mr Jaitley is undoubtedly capable of running several Union Cabinet ministries, it is perhaps unfair to ask so much of him. Indeed, it is widely understood that Mr Jaitley has only assumed this additional responsibility on a temporary basis, and that the country is likely to see the appointment of a new Defence Minister soon.

It is our humble submission, that your office should consider appointing Padma Bhushan Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, former Director General of DRDO and Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, as India’s next Union Minister for Defence. Dr Saraswat has been credited with the development of frontline indigenous missile systems such as the Prithvi and the Prahar. He is also known as the principal architect of India’s emerging Ballistic Missile Defence programme.

Beyond his unimpeachable credentials as a scientist, Dr Saraswat, during his distinguished career in government, also revealed an ability to anticipate futuristic war-fighting requirements and persevered to create an enabling environment for India to develop the relevant capability. It is well known that his time at the helm of policy-making in DRDO witnessed an emphasis towards the creation of test facilities that would serve military-industrial technology development needs for years to come.

In fact, Dr Saraswat has even been instrumental in the establishment of various strategic research and development centres in academic institutions,  such as the Research & Innovation Centre at IIT, Madras, and the Advanced Combustion Research Centre at IISc, Bangalore, clearly showing his recognition of the role that academia must play in the development of indigenous defence capabilities. Dr Saraswat has also long been a votary of involving private enterprise in defence production.

As such, we feel that Dr Saraswat’s track record of durable achievements shows his ability to bring together various stakeholders of the Indian system to deliver results. Such an approach is the need of the hour if India has to emerge as  a great power relying on indigenous defence capability, with the ability to influence actors and shape outcomes throughout the Indo-Pacific. Incidentally, Dr Saraswat is also a leading advocate of leveraging India’s Island Territories to project power across the Indian Ocean Region.

Dr APJ Kalam’s time as President showed the huge gains that can accrue to India when a celebrated scientist and science administrator is elevated to a Constitutional Position in the Indian State.  It is perhaps time to take the next step and give a long-standing technocrat the opportunity to helm India’s Defence Ministry at a time when ever increasing techno-economic complexity has become a key element in the formulation of national security policies.

Presently, a Member of  NITI Aayog, besides shouldering many honorary positions in government and academic institutions, as well as speaking to the young on a wide variety of platforms as a mentor and an expert, Dr Saraswat, as both an accomplished scientist and civil servant, seems fit for the role.

It would be apt if he were to be considered for the post of Raksha Mantri.

Team DDR

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