India appoints first full-time female defense minister amid reshuffle

Source:AFP Published: 2017/9/3 23:13:39

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi named a female legislator as India's new defense minister Sunday, the first time a woman will serve full-time in the key portfolio.

Nirmala Sitharaman's appointment in a cabinet reshuffle will ease the burden on Arun Jaitley, who had been juggling finance and defense throughout a months-long stand-off with China in China's Doklam region.

Modi also dropped Suresh Prabhu as railways minister, less than a week after he offered to resign following a train accident in August that killed 10.

Nine junior ministers were sworn in and four promoted to the cabinet in the reshuffle, the third shake-up since Modi was elected in 2014.

"I congratulate all those who have taken oath today. Their experience and wisdom will add immense value to the Council of Ministers," Modi said after the swearing-in ceremony.

Sitharaman, a junior minister who oversaw the commerce and trade portfolio, joins five other women in India's cabinet. The prestigious foreign affairs portfolio is also held by a woman, Sushma Swaraj.

"Imagine, the cabinet committee on security having two women and decisions on security-related matters being taken at par with men by the women," Sitharaman told Indian broadcaster News18.

"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?'"

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