Is Rahul Gandhi a defence enthusiast?
Well, his father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, certainly was. An airline pilot by profession, Rajiv Gandhi's fascination for machines both civilian and military was well known. It was Rajiv Gandhi who gave the go ahead for weaponising our nuclear capability in the eighties and oversaw the expansion of the Indian Navy into a quasi-blue water force with the induction of a nuclear submarine (the first INS Chakra) and a second aircraft carrier(the INS Viraat) during the same period. Could it be that his son also shares this interest?
Now one of the few times when Rahul Gandhi has spoken in Parliament, we heard him say the following:
"The difference between a powerful country and a country that is not powerful and does not have a similar impact on the world stage is that the powerful country thinks about how it will impact the world. The country that is not so powerful thinks about how the world would impact it. It does not matter which government runs this country. Many governments will run this country in the future. But it does matter how we think about our position in the world. What is important is that we stop worrying about how the world will impact us, we stop being scared about how the world will impact us, and we step out and worry about how we will impact the world."
Hmm, this is something that will certainly warm the heart of every Indian who thinks that India should not take things lying down anymore. But that kind of national temper has to be underpinned by hard power in the military and economic realms and this statement seems to give due regard to that fact. It should also be noted that this was actually part of a speech he made in support of nuclear energy.
Interestingly, a few days ago I also saw a report which says that Rahul Gandhi is apparently taking a personal interest in our ongoing indigenous aircraft carrier building programme. So we have Rahul, both in support of matters nuclear as well as naval. It might just be in the genes, do we say.
In any case I think the present defence minister with all due respect hasn't really been able to move things forward given that a number of very urgent programmes are spending more time being investigated than executed. The chief reason for this is of course the incumbent defence minister's supposed 'saintliness' which urges him to promptly review an entire procurement (regardless of which stage it might be in) even if anybody as much as sneezes 'scam'.
Perhaps, the induction of India's quasi-royalty will give a royal push (even a quasi-royal push would do) to a ministry which in my opinion should occupy the highest priority given that our cute cuddly neighbours both to the north and the west may be planning a joint pajama party at our expense. We need to poop that one fast.
More about Saurav JhaSaurav Jha is an author and commentator on energy and security affairs who writes regularly for numerous publications including The Telegraph, World Politics Review, The Diplomat, Le Monde Diplomatique and Nuclear Engineering International. He has degrees in economics from Presidency College, Calcutta and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His first book, The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power (HarperCollins India) was released to critical acclaim in 2010. His next work on sustainability issues due for release in late 2015 and tentatively titled The Nexus (Hachette India) explains how the nexus between energy, food and water pushes urbanizing economies towards stagflation. He has also co-authored The Heat and Dust Project (HarperCollins India) with wife Devapriya Roy, chronicling a 16000 km long backpacking trip through India on an extremely tight budget.
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