Addressing an international Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) seminar on the role of women in the armed forces, Singh said their wider contribution in all spheres of security and nation-building must also be recognised and reinforced.
“India’s former PM Indira Gandhi not only led the country for a number of years, she also did so during the times of war. And more recently, Pratibha Patil was the President of India and the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces,” the minister said.
“There are a number of examples of women taking up arms to protect their country and the rights of the people through history. Rani Laxmi Bai is amongst the most revered and respected amongst them,” he added.
Noting that Indian customs and traditions revered women as both caregivers and protecters, Singh said, “If Saraswati is our Goddess of knowledge, wisdom and learning, Mother Durga remains associated with protection, strength, destruction and war.”
India is among the very few countries that took an early initiative in terms of women’s participation in the armed forces. “Women are now also being accepted for permanent commission in the armed forces and shall be commanding Army units and battalions in the near future… We have taken the evolutionary path of moving from support to combat support and thereafter, to combat arms within the armed forces,” the minister said.
“We have found that the process of induction, given its broad-based and progressive path, has also simultaneously prepared the society and the armed forces for this change. This is an important aspect to ensure a smooth and successful transition,” he added. Girl cadets will also be able to join the premier tri-Service National Defence Academy from next year onwards.