India Appoints Female Defence Minister For First Time

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In a cabinet reshuffle, India has appointed Nirmala Sitharaman as its first full time woman defence minister.

The appointment of Ms Sitharaman on Sunday, who was previously a minister of state for commerce and industry, has been widely welcomed.

She had previously also worked as spokesperson for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Indira Gandhi, former prime minister who remains the first and only female to hold the position, also held the defence portfolio, but in conjunction with others.

Whilst 58-year-old Sitharaman hailed her appointment as an indication of the growing status of women in the country, there have been critics to her elevation from some; citing her lack of experience, particularly at a time of heightened sensitivity with a delicate relationship with neighbours Pakistan.

Correspondents in India say Sitharaman has the difficult tasks of developing the Indian armed forces into a modern power and implementing the massive military budget the government invests.

India now has six cabinet rank women ministers, of the 27 total cabinet positions, the highest number in more than a decade.

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