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Jaitley visiting Japan as Defence Minister, Sitharaman to take charge later

Notwithstanding the appointment of Nirmala Sitharaman as the new Defence Minister, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is presently holding additional charge of Defence, will represent India in a bilateral dialogue on defence in Japan.

Sitharaman, who was elevated to the rank of a cabinet minister on Sunday and given is set to be the Defence portfolio, will take charge of her office after Jaitley returns from Japan.

Jaitley told reporters on Sunday that he was going to Japan as logistic arrangements were not possible at the last moment.

“I leave tonight for Japan, and normally the new Defence Minister should have been going. But logistically that doesn’t seem possible today being a Sunday to make the changes,” said Jaitley, who will hold a bilateral dialogue with his Japanese counterpart, ahead of a visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to India later this month.

“It is a very important security dialogue between the two countries ahead of the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit and therefore changes are not advisable. I will continue for next two days to complete the dialogue, and Ms. Sitharaman will take the charge of the ministry as soon as the dialogue ends,” he said.

Jaitley also hailed his successor Sitharaman calling her a very “competent” person for the portfolio, and said her appointment sent a positive message globally.

“I am happy with the fact that I now have a very competent successor who has worked her way up and proved herself. She has actually earned that place for herself,” he said referring to Sitharaman, who has in past worked with him as Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs.

“It (her appointment) is great for the country, not just for the women. it also sends a message globally.”

Jaitley noted that the Cabinet Committee on Security would now have two women with Sitharaman joining External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

“It is first time in history that there are two women ministers in the CCS… It is a happy occasions for the country.

“Both ladies in CCS have established their competence, both are recognised as ladies with substance, who have earned a front-line position for themselves,” he said.

Asked about the reshuffle, Jaitley said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a new benchmark for accountability with this rejig.

“The appointments that have been made in the cabinet proves the Prime Minister has set a new benchmark of accountability. All the ministers and departments are constantly monitored, and he (Modi) knows who can give a good performance. New people with good administrative experience have been brought in. These are people who joined BJP after retiring, I am sure their tenure will be successful,” he said.