'Changes in security apparatus don't undermine Defence Ministry's authority': Nirmala Sitharaman
Mumbai, Oct 25: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday the authority of her ministry and of the armed forces have not been undermined by recent changes in the country's security establishment apparatus.
She also said the National Security Adviser (NSA) plays an important role in inter-ministerial coordination for security-related matters. At an event here, the defence minister was replying to a question on "changes in the shape of security establishment" and its criticism in some quarters after the NDA government recently reconstituted the Strategic Policy Group, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, to assist the National Security Council.
"Now if you are looking at security and strategy council, looking at national security council or NSA, now because it is going to have (to) bring in other ministries, other departments (for security-related matters)... that does not undermine the Raksha Mantralay (defence ministry)," the minister said.
"It does not take away the powers of the three forces, which largely are remaining autonomous," she said. "Today, defence of India is not only through your army, navy or air force alone," she said, adding there are various kinds of threats including those in the cyber domain. The minister said the cyber security is not only the software industry's concern but "also has severe repercussions on your security network". "You need to have an inter-ministerial coordination and that is where the NSA plays a role," Sitharaman said.
"And even then, the collective decisions that are being discussed there will have to pass through the Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) and then only it will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security. So that could be the forum where most of these things are being discussed. Hence there is no undermining of the defence minister," she said.
To a question on integration of commands of the armed forces, she said it has been initiated in the Andaman and Nicobar Command. "Andaman-Nicobar is an integrated command. We have already moved in that direction. The chief of it controls everything to do with army, navy and air force," she said.
"We will probably be moving towards having other commands also gradually move (towards unified command) so that the assets, which we have from the Ministry of Defence for the three forces, are better utilised, optimally utilised," she said. "The lessons learned from Andaman-Nicobar are being absorbed by the other commands within the mainland," said the minister.