Someday, there’ll be women combatants: Antony

March 7th, 2008 - 6:44 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) In a significant statement Friday, a day ahead of International Women’s Day, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said women could someday be inducted as combatants in the Indian armed forces. “I’m sure that at some point of time it will happen,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function organised by the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Authority (AORTA) here.

On Wednesday, Antony had cited operational reasons to rule out inducting women as combatants into the three services.

“A study carried out by the services has recommended that women officers be excluded from induction in close combat arms where chances of physical contact with enemy are high,” the minister said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

Antony’s statement Friday is a clear indication that the issue is far from closed.

Currently, women are eligible for permanent commissions in the medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They are also eligible for short service commissions in these services as also in the support arms of the armed forces.

In this context, Antony noted that women were initially inducted in the medical streams of the armed forces in 1927.

“In 1992, they were inducted on five-year commissions (in the support arms). Then we raised this to 10 years and subsequently to 14 years.

“It’s an ongoing process. It is possible that some day women will be inducted in the combat arms,” Antony maintained.

The issue had blown up into a major controversy two years ago after the then Indian Army vice chief, Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman, was quoted in his report as saying the forces “could do without” women.

Political parties and women’s organisations were quick to react, demanding that Pattabhiraman apologise and withdraw his remarks.

Pattabhiraman complied, adding for good measure that he had “been quoted out of context”.

Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the Indian Army, 784 in the Indian Air Force (IAF), and 252 in the Indian Navy. This includes women granted permanent commissions in the Army Medical Corps and the Army Dental Corps and their equivalents in the other two services, as also in the Military Nursing Services.

In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordinance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers, and the Army Service Corps.

In the Indian Air Force, women are inducted in all streams barring the fighter stream. In the Indian Navy, there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines.

Most militaries worldwide induct women but only a few allow them to perform active combat roles. Among these countries are Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland.

Countries like Britain and Israel allow women to serve in combat arms positions like the artillery roles but exclude them from infantry units.

The US allows women in most combat flying positions.

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