On 26 October 2006, taking the baton from Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Shri AK Antony assumed office as India’s 29th Defence Minister. Taking over when the UPA-1 was halfway through its term, Shri Antony has remained as the Defence Minister for nearly seven and a half years, making him India’s longest serving in the portfolio.
Both in 2006 and then again 2009 when the UPA returned to power for a second term, Shri Antony highlighted his key priorities in the demanding post: ramping up India’s defence preparedness, modernising the armed forces, strengthening security measures and apparatus across the board, including coastal security, fast-tracking infrastructure development in the North East and border areas, improving the lives of service personnel, including their accommodation, ration, food and clothing. And last, but certainly not least, ensuring absolute transparency in the complex defence procurement process.
After a couple of months’ in-depth briefing at the South Block, Shri Antony had embarked on extensive tours to various Defence establishments. His visits stretched from Siachen in north to Thiruvananthapuram in south, from Tawang in North East to Minicoy in South west. He met with Jawans and officers in difficult terrains and prodded them to share their frank views regarding the difficulties and challenges faced by them.
Based on these briefings, interactions and meetings, he relentlessly pursued the process modernization of the Armed Forces and also brought about far reaching changes in the lives of serving and retired military personnel. Some of the changes, e.g., breaching the barriers in the allocation of eggs and fruits to jawans are illustrative of the depth to which Shri Antony delved to bring about pragmatism in military administration.
The coming of age of five long standing projects- the induction of MBT Arjun in Indian Army, the induction of LCA Tejas in IAF, the arrival of INS Vikramaditya for Indian Navy, significant strides in India’s first indigenous nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, which made substantial progress and achieved ‘criticality’ and successful completion of trials for underwater launched ballistic missile system- BO5, thus, completing the triad for nuclear deterrence, all happened under his stewardship.
Shri Antony also worked steadfastly to create a healthy environment for the participation of the Indian industry-both public and private, in the research, development and manufacturing of defence products.
During this period, the Indian Armed Forces also went for a systematic force projection in the immediate neighbourhood and far off Asian region by engaging many countries through exercises and defence diplomacy.
The period also witnessed scaling of new heights by armed forces personnel in fields like sports and adventure activities. Besides, in a first of its kind experience, the Indian Military under the leadership of Shri Antony, conducted the 4th CISM Military World Games, an event which is only second to the Olympic Games in size. Over 5000 participants from nearly 100 countries took part in the event. The Games were held at Hyderabad and Mumbai and were conducted in a professional manner with military precision. India received worldwide appreciation for the smooth conduct of the Games. (end of excerpt)
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