BY : Indian Express Newspapers
The long-cherished dream of women entering the male bastion of flying fighter jets may finally come true with IAF Chief F H Major saying on Wednesday that the force is open to the idea of allowing the fairer sex donning the frontline combat role.
Major said women in the Indian Air Force were doing a "good job" and there was no reason why they would not be able to fly combat aircraft in future.
Replying to a question on whether IAF will have women fighter pilots in future like that of the US and other western armies, Major said he was "certain" that his force will have women in combat roles.
"It may happen in future, why not. The women in IAF are doing a good job," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function in New Delhi.
Asked whether IAF was considering any proposal in this regard, he said: "No proposal is under consideration right now. We will have to give a lot of thought on it."
Many in the top brass in the forces think women are not fit for combat role as the Indian society is not moulded yet to see women combat casualties.
They think women officers would not be able to withhold pressure of battle fatigues and the risks like being taken Prisoners of War would be difficult to handle.
IAF has over 700 women officers in non-combatant role. Major said the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) will take a decision next month on the proposal of having women as permanent commissioned officers in armed forces. "It is to be decided by the COSC hopefully in the next month and then we will go to the government," he said.
Terming the proposal as a good move, Major said IAF has no problem in allowing women as permanent commissioned officers.
"It will be good move if women are allowed as permanent commissioned officers. Girls are doing very well in Indian Air Force. They will do well be it in short service or permanent commission. As far as IAF is concerned, I have no problem," Major said.
The COSC is currently discussing possible streams, arms and services of Army, Navy and Air Force, where women could be given permanent commissioning.
At present, the Indian armed forces offered only short service commission for women of five years service, extendable to a total of 14 years.
India started enrolling women as officers in the armed forces since 1992 and at present the tri-services had a cumulative strength of about 2,000 women officers mainly in the non-combat streams, with the Army leading the pack with about 1,000 women officers.
Currently, women officers are given short service commission in streams such as Education, Signals, Ordnance, helicopter and transport aircraft flying, navigation, and such arms and services.
The Armed Forces already facing a shortage of about 13,000 in its officer cadre and the military academies suffering from fall in number of new recruits, the move of the government to provide permanent commission for women could well turn out to be the answer to the recruitment troubles of the academies.