A representational image.
New Delhi: The government has taken a number of steps to strengthen the role of women within the security setup in general and the armed forces in particular, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday.
Delivering the inaugural address at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) webinar on 'Role of Women in Armed Forces', from Delhi, Singh said "Women have been serving with pride in Indian Military Nursing Service for over 100 years now. Indian Army had commenced commissioning women officers in 1992."
"It has now moved to inducting women officers in most of the branches of the Army. Women are now being accepted for permanent commission and shall be commanding army units and battalions in near future", he added.
The webinar was hosted by HQ, Integrated Defence Staff of the Ministry of Defence.
Pointing out that induction of women in the Military Police commenced last year, Singh said from next year women will be able to join the premier tri-service training institute, the National Defence Academy. He wished to see women officers from SCO nations in the Officer Training Academy, Chennai, he added.
Singh said that women were inducted in both support and combat roles -- in the Indian Navy they pilot maritime reconnaissance aircraft and since last year they have been posted onboard warships.
Similarly, the Indian Coast Guard has 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 percentage of the officer cadre. In UN peacekeeping missions too, women from the Indian Armed Forces participate regularly.
He said the government's approach to the induction of women in the armed forces has 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.
Underlining that the concept of security is undergoing a paradigm shift, Singh said the changing character of war is 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. SCO as an organization has 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."
Singh said women have proven themselves in every walk of life. "Many barriers have been broken and many more imagined barriers should break in the years to come."
The Defence Minister saluted the brave women from all SCO nations who have been selflessly serving their nations, working on conflict mitigation, developmental projects and promoting the cause of peace and prosperity. Exhorting the SCO nations to ensure regional stability, promote peace, ensure gender equality and work towards betterment of the entire region, Singh said, "We look forward to much greater participation and bigger role of women in various tasks of Armed Forces."
Stressing that Indian customs and traditions revered women as both caregivers and protectors, Singh said, "If Saraswati is our Goddess of knowledge, wisdom & learning, Mother Durga remains associated with protection, strength, destruction and war. In fact, we are celebrating Vijay Dashami, the day Goddess Durga defeated and killed demon Mahishasura, across the subcontinent."
He also recalled that women took up arms to protect the country throughout history, "Rani Laxmibai is amongst the most revered and respected amongst them. She fought against the imposition of unjust foreign rule till her very last breath, leading her men from the front."
He also stated that former prime minister late Indira Gandhi not only led the country for a number of years, but she also did so during the times of war.