Combat roles for women: Parrikar says change will be gradual

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said he supports better representation of women in armed forces but their assumption of combat roles should be a gradual process.

“I am totally for women empowerment and greater role of women in armed forces, but the change has to be gradual,” Parrikar said in response to a query on women’s participation in combat situations at an event organised by Ficci Ladies Organisation (FLO) here.

India got its first batch of three women fighter pilots last month when Flying Officers Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were commissioned into the Indian Air Force.

The Defence Minister also mooted the idea of having a battalion of women.

“Why not have a complete women team, battalion of women,” he said.

Speaking of constraints in absorbing women in certain roles in defence forces, Parrikar said as an example that he cannot allow women naval officers’ deployment on submarines which are not amenable to gender segregation.

“However, ships can be modified to suit women’s needs and hence they can be deployed on ships,” he said.

The minister ruled out reservations for women in defence forces.

“I don’t believe in reservation. I believe in affirmative action,” he said, adding that there cannot be any compromise with the security of nation’s borders, which is the armed forces’ primary duty.

“If you can usher in change without compromising on the primary purpose of the forces, it is well and good,” he said.

Parrikar said there have been demands for Sainik schools to have girl students but such demands cannot be met immediately as it entails “a lot of other things as well”.

“Sainik schools are seen as the stepping stone to joining forces. If girls are taken into Sainik schools but if they cannot make it to the forces, they may feel bad. These things have to be looked into,” he said.

Asked how 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence sector gels with ‘Make in India’, Parrikar said the FDI is not going to hurt the domestic industry catering to defence sector.

“Allowing 100 per cent FDI in defence is just an enabler. Major global defence companies will invest when they are sure of orders from India and other countries,” he said.

“Tie-ups with foreign companies having technology with major Indian companies, including the Tata and Mahindra, are already on and huge foreign investment is in pipeline in the defence sector,” the minister added.

–IANS

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