On combat roles for women, Parrikar says change has to 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 here 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.

Parrikar said he cannot allow women naval officers’ deployment on submarines which are not amenable to gender segregation.

“But yes, 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.

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 Tatas and Mahindra, are already on and huge foreign investment is in pipeline in the defence sector,” the minister added.



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