NEW DELHI, Sept 3 - In a big promotion, Nirmala Sitharaman today became the first woman to become a full-time Defence Minister of the country as she faced the challenge of speeding up modernisation of the three forces in her new role.
58-year-old Sitharaman, a Rajya Sabha member, is the second woman to take charge of the crucial ministry as Indira Gandhi, as the Prime Minister, had also held the portfolio in the seventies.
Her elevation is seen as reward for her good work as the Commerce Minister. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was handling the Defence Ministry after Manohar Parrikar quit to become the Goa�s chief minister in March.
Sitharaman will now be a member of the crucial Cabinet Committee on Security whose members include the Prime Minister, Home Minister, External Affairs Minister and the Finance Minister.
�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.
Sitharaman said she was just overwhelmed and humbled.
�I am sure, now that I have an extremely competent successor in Nirmala Sitharaman, she will carry the road forward,� Jaitley said congratulating Sitharaman.
One of the BJP�s chief spokespersons before its ascent to power, Sitharaman is an alumna of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
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. � PTI