Newly-appointed Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday expressed that she was “overwhelmed and humbled” by the responsbility that has been bestowed upon her, pledging to serve the country to the best of her abilities. “I am just overwhelmed and humbled. I can serve the country with something which is constantly on the top of my mind,” Sitharaman said.
Crediting her elevation to a cabinet rank minister to “cosmic grace” and support from party leadership, Sitharaman said she was “very grateful” for the confidence the Prime Minister has on her.
When asked whether dealing with Pakistan in view of terrorism will be her priority, she said, “I have not even taken charge. I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on it now…give me some time.”
The 58-year-old became the second woman to assume the charge of the Defence Ministry as former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had also held the portfolio in the seventies. Her promotion is viewed as a reward for her good work as the Commerce Minister. Previously, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was handling the Defence Ministry following the resignation of Manohar Parrikar, who quit the post to become the Goa’s chief minister in March.
Sitharaman, a Rajya Sabha member, was also among the four junior ministers who were handed cabinet berths at the reshuffle earlier in the day.
She further said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed towards the empowerment of women. “I know his working style since the time he was in Gujarat … He always believe in giving women their due share. His belief is that women can also perform,” said Sitharaman, who was earlier the Minister of State (Independent Charge) Commerce.
“Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into the party with all the support of the leadership, and if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise, it is impossible,” she told reporters soon after taking oath.
With her elevation as Defence Minister, Sitharaman will now be a part of the crucial Cabinet Committee on Security whose members include the prime minister, home minister, external affairs minister and the finance minister.
Upon assuming the charge as the Defence Minister, Sitharaman will face several challenges, including strengthening of the combat capabilities of the Army, Navy and the Air Force due to changing regional security matrix and geo-political dynamics.
With PTI inputs