Women shall be able to join the National Defence Academy from next year, the Defence Minister said

With women now being accepted for permanent commission in the Indian Army, they would be commanding army units and battalions in the near future, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has said.

Indian Army had commenced commissioning women officers in 1992; it had now moved to inducting women officers in most of the branches of the Army, Singh said on Thursday.

"A number of women have reached the rank of Lieutenant General and equivalent within the Indian Armed Forces, leading their men and women under the most challenging conditions," the Defence Minister noted.

He was delivering the inaugural address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) webinar on ‘Role of Women in Armed Forces.

The webinar was hosted by the Hq, Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence.

The induction of women in Military Police had commenced last year, marking a major milestone wherein women are inducted in the rank and file of Army, Singh said.

"I am happy to share with you that from next year, women shall be able to join our premier tri-service pre-commissioning training institute, the National Defence Academy," he pointed out.

Singh said that Government’s approach to the induction of women in the armed forces had been progressive.

“We have taken the evolutionary path of moving from support to combat support and thereafter to combat arms within the armed forces,” he added.

Women were being inducted in both support and combat roles, the Defence Minister said.

* In the Indian Navy, they pilot Maritime Reconnaissance aircrafts and since last year they were appointed onboard warships.

* The Indian Coast Guard had been employing women officers in combat roles which includes pilots, observers and aviation support services.

* In the Indian Air Force, women fly helicopters, fighter jets and constitute a significant percent of the officer cadre. In UN peacekeeping missions too, women from the Indian Armed Forces participate regularly.

'Changing character of war bringing threats'

Underlining that the concept of security was undergoing a paradigm shift, Singh said the changing character of war was bringing threats from our borders to within our society.

“Terrorism is just the most obvious and diabolical manifestation of this reality. It has been employed as a weapon of choice by non-state actors and irresponsible states alike for the furtherance of their political objectives," he noted.

Pointing out that the SCO had unequivocally rejected terrorism in all its manifestations and forms, he added and stressed that “this fight cannot be won by half the population…Women too will remain equal contributors in this fight, both within the armed forces and beyond them.”

"Women have and will remain equal contributors in this fight, both within the armed forces and beyond them," Defence Minister Singh said.

"We have deep trust and a very positive experience in harnessing women’s power in national development. We seek every means to optimize the unrealized potential of half of our human resources," Singh said.

India was amongst the few countries that took an early initiative when it came to the participation of women in the armed forces, the Defence Minister said.

"Women have been serving with pride in Indian Military Nursing Service for over 100 years now," he pointed out.

Addressing the seminar, Singh said the event came at a time when a large number of women had successfully broken the glass ceiling in a variety of professional spheres.

The SCO had unequivocally rejected terrorism in all its manifestations and forms, he added.

Noting that India remained deeply committed to the SCO and its charter, he said, "We have had long-standing and natural linkages through the course of history with all countries of this unique grouping".

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat delivered the welcome address. The SCO Deputy Secretary-General Muratbek Azymbakiev also addressed Webinar via video link.

The first session on ‘Historical Perspective of Women’s Roles in Combat Operations’ was chaired by Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Medical) Lt General Madhuri Kanitkar.

The second session on ‘Emerging Trends in Wars and Likely Roles of Women Warriors’ was chaired by Former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Menon.

Members from Pakistan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan shared their views on the subject.