2019 was a year full of remarkable events for Ministry of Defence. In a landmark decision with tremendous reform in higher defence management in the country, the Government has approved to create the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief. The CDS will also head the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), to be created within the Ministry of Defence and function as its Secretary. This follows the announcement made by the Prime Minister on August 15, 2019, in his address to the nation, inter alia, “India should not have a fragmented approach. Our entire military power will have to work in unison and move forward. All three (Services) should move simultaneously at the same pace. There should be good coordination and it should be relevant to the hope and aspirations of our people. It should be in line with the changing war and security environment with the world…after formation of this post (CDS), all the three forces will get effective leadership at the top level.”
The decision will lead to improved coordination between the Armed Forces and make them more effective. The other major decisions and events related to Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces are as follows:
- Prime Minister dedicated to the nation the National War Memorial in a solemn ceremonial function on February 25 near India Gate. The memorial has been erected in the memory of those soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in the service of the nation after India became Independent in 1947.
- In an intelligence-led operation in the early hours of February 26, India struck the biggest training camp of Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot, Pakistan. In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated. This facility at Balakot was headed by Maulana Yousuf Azhar, the brother-in-law of Masood Azhar, Chief of JeM. This was in response to February 14, 2019 suicide terror attack, conducted by a Pakistan based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad that led to the martyrdom of 40 brave jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
- It was a red-letter day in the history of Indian Air Force when Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh participated in the Rafale fighter aircraft handing over ceremony at Merignac in France in October. The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will make India stronger and give a boost to its air dominance to ensure peace and security in the region. Raksha Mantri also flew a sortie in the fighter aircraft.
- Shri Rajnath Singh became the first Raksha Mantri to fly the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Airport in Bengaluru, on September 2019.
- Raksha Mantri handed over Medium Range Surface-to-Air-Missileto Indian Air Force at the Bharat Dynamics Limited premises in Hyderabad on August 3 on the occasion of Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Defence PSU.
- Shri Rajnath Singh, on June 18, announced the restoration of the ‘ration in kind’ for the officers of the threeArmed Forces posted in peace areas.
- Raksha Mantri gave in principle approval to four-times enhancement of monetary assistance to Next of Kin of all categories of Battle Casualty from Rs two lakh to Rs eight lakh. Extension of retention of government accommodation by Battle Casualties for a period of one year instead of three months was also approved.
- Ushering in vast improvement in the connectivity of roads and bridges in border areas, Raksha Mantri inaugurated one kilometre long Ujh bridge in Kathua district, 617.40 Metre long Basantar bridge in Samba district of Jammu & Kashmir on July 20.
- Shri Rajnath Singh inaugurated strategically important Col ChewangRinchen bridge connecting Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldie in Eastern Ladakh on October 21.
- Raksha Mantri, on November 15, inaugurated strategically important Sisseri River Bridge, which connects Lower Dibang Valley with East Siang in Arunachal Pradesh.
- Government decided to honour the contribution of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by naming the Strategic Tunnel under Rohtang Pass after him on December 25, 2019, which happens to be his birthday. The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 03, 2000 when late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone.
- Shri Rajnath Singh spent a ‘Day-at-Sea’ onboard INS Vikramaditya on September 9 off the Goa coast. During his stay on the biggest ship of Indian Navy, Raksha Mantri witnessed a wide range of naval operations, including weapon firing by the fighter aircraft and night flying operations by helicopter from the deck of the Aircraft Carrier.
- On 20 February, the then Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the 12th biennial edition of International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition at Bengaluru which witnessed participation of more than 600 Indian Companies and 200 foreign companies. A total of 61 aircraft participated in the event.
- Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh flagged off special plogging awareness drive rally in Delhi Cantt on December 7, as part of Swachhta Pakhwada to create awareness against single use plastic in the country. He himself took part in the event by picking waste material from the area.More than 3,000 people, including schoolchildren participated in the plogging and collected sizeable single use plastic waste.
BILATERAL DEFENCE COOPERATION
Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh visited various countries, including United States, France, Russia, Ukraine, Japan and South Korea in a bid to strengthen bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation. Various issues, including counter-terrorism operations, Indo-Pacific and South China Sea were discussed during these visits.
- Shri Rajnath Singh and Dr S Jaishankar took part in the India-US 2+2 dialogue between the Defence & External Affairs Ministers of India and their US counterparts in Washington on December 18. Both sides committed to further deepen military-to-military cooperation, including between the Indian Navy and the US Navy Fleets under US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command, and Africa Command and intend to expand similar cooperation between their respective Armies and Air Forces.
- India-Japan 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi on November 30. Shri Rajnath Singh and Dr S Jaishankar participated in the meeting with their Japanese counterparts. They affirmed that the dialogue will further enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defence cooperation.
- Raksha Mantri, during his visit to Japan, held the annual Defence Ministerial Meeting with his Japanese counterpart on September 2 in Tokyo. Both ministers discussed ways to further strengthen the existing bilateral co-operative arrangements and adopt new initiatives towards achieving peace and security in the region.
- Shri Rajnath Singh visited Thailand’s capital Bangkok to attend the 6th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) on November 17. He also held various bilateral meetings with the leaders of US, Thailand, Japan, Australia & New Zealand and discussed ways to further improving the ties.
- During his visit to Republic of Korea, Shri Rajnath Singh held talks with Minister of National Defence of Republic of Korea in Seoul on September 6. He also addressed CEOs of Korean and Indian Defence Industries. India and Republic of Korea formulated a roadmap to take bilateral Defence Industry co-operation forward to the next level.
- Raksha Mantri and his Singaporean counterpart co-chaired the 4th Singapore-India Defence Ministers’ Dialogue in Singapore on November 20. Both Ministers expressed satisfaction at the deepening defence ties between India & Singapore and reaffirmed their commitment to support further initiatives that would promote stability to the region. The inaugural edition of the Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) in the Andaman Sea was conducted in September.
- Shri Rajnath Singh participated in the 18th meeting of Council of Heads of Government of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation at Tashkent in Uzbekistan on November 2. He held talks with the Uzbek Defence Minister and signed three MoUs to enhance cooperation in Military Medicine & Military Education. He also attended the ‘Curtain Raiser’ of first-ever India-Uzbekistan Joint Exercise ‘Dustlik 2019’.
- Shri Rajnath Singh co-chaired the 19thIndia-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military Technical Cooperation in Moscow along with his Russian counterpart.
- Continuing with his high-level engagements in Mozambique, Raksha Mantri on July 30 held discussions with Minister of Interior, Mr Jaime Basilio Monteiro in Maputo. Raksha Mantri gifted 44 SUVs to the Minister of Interior.
- Mozambique’s Defence Minister visited India and held a meeting with Shri Rajnath Singh on November 29. Both sidesreiterated their commitment to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation.
- Maldives Defence Minister paid an official visit to India in January. The Minister held a meeting with the then Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, with both sides reiterating India’s commitment to contribute towards capacity building and training requirements of the Maldives National Defence Forces.
- In February, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman visited Germany and met her counterpart. The two Ministers comprehensively reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral defence cooperation as an important facet of India-Germany Strategic Partnership.
- Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services (CDS) of the Republic of Union of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (MAH) visited India in July-August and held extensive talks with Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Shripad Yesso Naik. The talks were aimed at enhancing defence co-operation, review joint exercises and training provided to Myanmar Defence Services, strengthen maritime security by joint surveillance and capacity building, medical co-operation, pollution response and for developing new infrastructure. On conclusion of the talks, India and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defence co-operation.
- Raksha Mantri held talks with Chief of General Staff, Vietnam People’s Army and Deputy Minister of National Defence Senior Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang and discussed ways to further bolster defence ties between the two countries in New Delhi on November 25. He also called on Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat.