Parrikar bats for combat role for women in armed forces

Parrikar bats for combat role for women in armed forcesNEW DELHI: Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar today batted for combat role for women in the armed forces, but said a policy decision will soon be made after studying the implications as it may have some “operational” or “training difficulties”.

His comments came a day after IAF Chief Arup Raha said the air force has moved a proposal for inducting women as fighter aircraft pilots.

“The procedure is on. I am still not aware as to why an in-principle approval should not be given. There could some hurdles, difficulties during the training. Keeping all this in mind, we will soon announce a policy. They have recommended women in combat role and there is no reason why we should not accept it. It can be thought upon on how and when they can be used,” Parrikar said.

“There are some operational difficulties. Barring that, why can’t women participate in the combat operations (of Indian Air Force). I also have some questions related to this and I am discussing with them. This takes time,” he said while interacting with reporters here after a parade to mark the 66th anniversary of Territorial Army.

Air Chief Marshal Raha had yesterday said a proposal to induct women as fighter plane pilots has been sent to the Defense Ministry.

The proposal to induct women into a fighting arm is a first in the three services which were earlier not open to the idea of women taking part in combat role.

Parrikar had in May ruled out recruiting women for combat operations in the armed forces due to apprehensions about their safety but said they would be encouraged to join other operational areas with their inclusion being stepped up in phases.

Parrikar said the role of women in combat operations can be different as in today’s age defense forces are also required to maintain security within the country.

“If any decision is taken without understanding then the implication will be bad later. In principle, we are (for equality) for both the sexes, no gender discrimination, except when there are operational problems or training problems. We have to do that keeping that in mind.

“These days the work of defense forces is also to maintain security within the country, for instance, counter-insurgency (operations). There is no problem in including them (women) in combat training in the air force. But how to put them to use will be decided if there is a war,” the minister said.

On the issue of aircraft shortfall in the air force, Parrikar said there has been an in-principle agreement between IAF and HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) for 100 Light Combat Aircraft (LAC).

“Already the approved version of LCA under SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) 18 is accepted by the air force. Not everything is sophisticated. Different planes have different roles in the air force. Not all can be of one type and have a fixed role. There is always a mixture of weaponry and mixture of platforms.

“Whatever additions IAF has asked for, HAL has accepted it. So, in-principle, there has been an agreement for 100 LCAs with HAL. This is not an order and that procedure will soon follow. There are some weaponry which have to be fitted, two more additional features, like slightly better range (included). HAL has agreed that they can do it without major modification,” the Defense Minister said.

“So, this (LCA) will comprise around six squadrons. Two (squadrons) of Rafael are coming. We are discussing on how to fill the remaining gap,” Parrikar said.

Replying to a question on the alleged atrocities in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), Parrikar said those in the Kashmir Valley should understand the freedom that India offers.

“Already MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) has taken up the issue at the right forum. They will raise it. That is a good lesson to people who try to show some link with Pakistan in the Valley or wherever. They should understand that democratic India is a totally different dispensation where we have total freedom, you (can) talk without any censorship,” he said. Lauding the role of Territorial Army in addressing environment concerns, he said the forces have done good work in this sector like reclamation of limestone-mined area in Mussoorie, stabilization of sand dunes in Rajasthan, ecological restoration of the Aravalli hills in Bhatti Mines of Delhi, afforestation in Bodo areas of Assam and in high altitude of Badrinath.

“We are also looking forward to utilizing the dedicated and disciplined personnel of Territorial Army to step up and supplement the government’s efforts in National Mission for Clean Ganga,” Parrikar said.–PTI

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