NEW DELHI • Ms Nirmala Sitharaman's appointment as India's new defence minister in a Cabinet reshuffle yesterday makes her the second woman to be appointed to the key portfolio overseeing border tensions with China and Pakistan.
Ms Sitharaman, a junior minister who oversaw the commerce and trade portfolio, joins five other women in Cabinet. The foreign affairs portfolio is held by Ms Sushma Swaraj.
Former prime minister Indira Gandhi was defence minister on two occasions between the mid-1970s and early 1980s.
Ms Sitharaman will be charged with carrying out a military modernisation programme estimated to cost US$250 billion (S$339.4 billion) as the government spends on everything from warplanes to submarines.
"There is a big message to all the countries that look up to India or look at India, saying 'What is happening to women in India?'" Ms Sitharaman told Indian broadcaster News18.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS