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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2525

India Gets a Foreign Minister and a New Defence Minister

By M Rama Rao reporting from New Delhi

New Delhi, 25 October (Asiantribune.com): India has finally got a foreign minister after a year long wait. It also got a new defence minister on Tuesday. Pranab Mukherjee, 71, who is number two in the Indian government since the days of Indira Gandhi, has moved to the foreign office 'reluctantly'.The new External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee brings with him a rich experience to the foreign office.The new External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee brings with him a rich experience to the foreign office.

His place in the Defence Ministry has been taken by Mr Clean of Indian politics, A K Antony, a former Chief Minister of south Indian state of Kerala, also reluctantly. The Kerala strong man is returning to the Federal Ministry after a gap of over a decade. His last stint in Delhi was as Minister for civil supplies in the Narasimha Rao Ministry, which incidentally was the last single party government in India in a decade.

Defence ministry has been the waterloo for many politicians in recent past. The arms procurement has besmirched the reputations with corruption and middlemen becoming synonymous with arms deals. George Fernandes, who was a nightmare to many in the government as a socialist leader, is facing investigations for his role in the import of submarines from France when he was the defence minister in the Vajpayee government.

Pranab Mukherjee brings with him a rich experience to the foreign office. He is bound to inspire confidence amongst India's neighbours since he has a good grasp of bilateral matters and has been involved in policy planning. Both Colombo and Dhaka as also Kathmandu will have reason to feel relaxed as they will find in Pranab a veteran politician who while pushing India's case and agenda, is keen not to make the any one feel that they are dealing with a 'dada', though he is endearingly addressed by one and all as the 'Dada' – a Bengali word to mean elder brother.The new Union Minister,  A.K. Antony greeting the President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after Swearing-in Ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on October 24, 2006. The new Union Minister, A.K. Antony greeting the President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam after Swearing-in Ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on October 24, 2006.

The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson of UPA, Smt. Sonia Gandhi with the new inductees in the council of Union Ministers, Shri A.K. Antony, Shri M.H. Ambareesh and Shri Jayprakash Narain Yadav at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on October 24, 2006The President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson of UPA, Smt. Sonia Gandhi with the new inductees in the council of Union Ministers, Shri A.K. Antony, Shri M.H. Ambareesh and Shri Jayprakash Narain Yadav at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on October 24, 2006

Pranab is not new to external affairs. He had held that portfolio minister in the Rao government for about a year (1995-96). Beginning as a junior minister in the industry ministry in 1973, he had held a variety of ministries. He had a long stint in finance also.

A post-graduate in history and political science from Kolkata University, Pranab has become the brains trust of both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (whom he had appointed as the Reserve Bank Governor in the eighties when he was the finance minister) and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, has come to be known as one man think tank for the Congress and trouble shooter for the government with his negotiating and drafting skills.

A Kannada film star turned politician, M H Ambareesh, a third time MP, has been made a junior minister for Information & Broadcasting. He represents the powerful Vokkalinga community of his native Karnataka state. Another Junior was also taken in for the water resources ministry from Congress ally, Rashtriya Janata Dal.

With Tuesday's exercise Manmohan Singh head an 80- strong ministry - 34 Cabinet ministers, seven Ministers of State with Independent Charge and 39 Ministers of State.

This is the second such reshuffle cum expansion undertaken by the prime minister in a year

-Asian Tribune –

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