In his 28-month tenure (November 2014 to March 2017) as Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar not only laid out a ‘blue print’ for the ministry, he did a deft balancing act of New Delhi’s military ties with the US, Russia and China

Parrikar took a month to understand the MoD and by the time he first met reporters on a cold December evening at Kota House in Lutyens Delhi, he had in-depth knowledge of complex issues, stalled negotiations for the Rafale jet deal, re-looking at the policy to blacklist erring foreign manufacturers, rising litigation against pensioners and possibility of getting more Sukhoi fighter jets.

During his tenure, the Army carried out two surgical strikes — one in Myanmar and the other in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The purchase of 145 artillery guns was done during his tenure and the first orders for new generation of bullet-proof jackets and helmets were placed. The One Rank, One Pension (OROP) was implemented during his tenure. It was Parrikar who got Russian companies to come and make spare parts in India. 

Indian military establishment was at a cusp of change, including modernisation and manpower restructuring, when Parrikar faced tough issues. He worked on the ‘strategic partnership’ model which forms the core of ‘Make in India’. On this, hinges the production of new submarines, helicopters, fighter jets and tanks.

The MoD is a slow-moving behemoth, and Parrikar kept pushing at ramping up production of the locally made fighter jet Tejas, the indigenous helicopters, buying new rifles, getting more bulletproof jackets and modernising tanks, to name a few. Parrikar did the difficult task of balancing military ties with the US, Russia and China. “If you have an autonomous independent decision-making ability and do not enter camps or groups we can keep good relations with all,” he told The Tribune in an interview in 2016.

In an event, he rejected the idea of India being invited by the US to join a four-nation grouping to patrol areas like the South China Sea.