As India's new defence minister, Rajnath Singh's most crucial challenge will be to speed up the long-delayed modernisation of the three services besides ensuring overall coherence in their combat readiness. His another challenge will be to ensure peace and tranquillity along the frontier with China while developing required military infrastructure to deal with any possible Chinese hostility. As he takes charge of the ministry just three months after India carried out air strikes on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot, it is expected that he will continue with the policy of hot pursuit in dealing with cross border terrorism.
Containing infiltration of terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan will be another key focus area. As the Defence Minister, Singh will face the challenge of strengthening the combat capabilities of the Army, Navy and the Air Force due to changing regional security matrix and geo-political dynamics. The forces have been pressing for equipping them to deal with hybrid warfare and Singh will have to attend to this crucial demand.
The government has been focusing on domestic defence production and Singh will have to carry forward a number of big-ticket reform initiatives, including implementing the ambitious "strategic partnership" model. Under the new model, select Indian private firms will be roped in to build military platforms like submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign defence majors.
Singh also faces the challenge of modernising the defence research organisations and various other defence public sector undertakings so that they can produce state-of-the art military hardware to match requirement of the forces. The former home minister is expected to focus on simplification of the acquisition process as majority of the military modernisation programmes are delayed due to administrative hurdles.
Singh, who was Home Minister in the previous government, will also have to oversee carrying out of major reforms in the 12-lakh strong Army. The Army has already finalised a blueprint for its reform including right-sizing of the force.
Singh’s predecessor Nirmala Sitharaman had taken on the opposition head-on with her fiery defence of the Rafale fighter jet deal and it will be interesting to see how Singh deals with the issue. Officials said Singh will take charge as defence minister on Saturday.