Defence policy: India
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Accorded low priority
India will once again go unrepresented at a senior level at the prominent Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), the annual security forum in Singapore that brings together defence ministers, top military officers and experts from the Asia-Pacific region as well as others like the US and Europe.
Sources on Friday said the “busy schedule“ of Arun Jaitley , who handles both the finance and defence portfolios, did not permit him to attend the three-day security forum this weekend. “Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also out of the country ,“ said a source.
The government also did not send minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre or one of the three Service chiefs for the SLD, which was inaugurated by Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and will be attended by defence ministers from countries like the US, Australia, France, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand.
US defence secretary General James Mattis (retd) will be watched very carefully for an assessment on how the Trump administration intends to deal with the critical Asia-Pacific region, where China has become increasingly assertive much to the disquiet of several countries.
Manohar Parrikar had re presented India as defence minister at the SLD last year. But in 2014, when Jaitley was performing his dual role, India had not sent anyone senior for the forum. A K Antony , during his eight-year stint as defence minister in the previous UPA regime, had not accorded much priority to the SLD. All this has invited criticism from certain quarters that India does not give adequate importance to military diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region, especially since SLD is a `Track-1' security forum that allows world leaders to discuss policy . “India should ensure ministerial participation at the SLD on a regular basis,“ said an expert.