Indian Navy will soon allow women to join as sailors, and the deployment of women on warships may soon become a reality. The issue of deployment of women on warships, which has been a long pending demand, came up during the three-day Naval Commanders Conference in New Delhi.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while addressing the naval commanders on the final day of the conference, urged the Navy to give impetus to the enrollment of women in the Navy.
Responding to Sitharaman, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba confirmed that women in sailor rank is one of the key points of the agenda of the ongoing commanders conference.
"Besides sailor rank, inclusion of women in sea going cadre is also being looked at in near future, not immediately," an officer privy to the development said.
At present, only the Army has decided to induct women as soldiers or jawans, and 800 of them will be recruited for the Corps of Military Police. Currently women are serving as officers in the Army, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Navy. The recruitment of women jawans in the Army will begin in a phased manner with the selection and training of 52 candidates every year.
The Navy has so far deployed women officers in eight branches, including education, law and naval constructions, where women have been given permanent commission as non-sea going cadre. For the deployment of women in sea, future warships are being modified with 'suitable facilities' to accommodate women crew onboard.
The Navy has also deployed 70 women officers as observers or tactical operators on the maritime patrol aircrafts Boeing P-8I and IL-38, which are armed, and it is considered as a combat role.
Last year, Indian Air Force inducted three women as fighter pilots on an experimental basis.
While addressing top naval commanders, the defence minister reiterated the need for the nation to be strong at sea and the Navy was asked to be ready and vigilant to counter any challenge in the maritime domain. “The government appreciates the Navy’s efforts in the area of indigenisation, self-reliance, and support to the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government," she said, while expressing her satisfaction at the Navy’s initiatives to achieve ‘Digital Navy’ vision in line with the government’s initiative of ‘Digital India' programme.
In the last six months, defence ministry has approved capital acquisitions contracts worth Rs 17,000 crore. In the last four years of the BJP-led NDA government, two-third of the Navy's modernisation budget was spent on indigenous procurement.
During the interaction, Sitharaman reviewed the combat readiness of the Navy, pace of modernisation and progress of various acquisition and infrastructure related cases as infrastructure projects worth more than Rs 2,300 crore were approved in this financial year so far.
During the three days of brainstorming, top naval commanders undertook a review of the Navy’s modernisation plans, including induction of aircraft carriers, ships, nuclear powered submarines, conventional submarines, re-vitalisation of the aviation and sub-surface assets and induction of certain state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and equipment. "Further, development of technical and support infrastructure for maintenance of these assets were also discussed in consonance with the ‘Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan 2015-30’, which has formulated the requirements of the Indian Navy towards indigenous development of equipment and systems over the next 15 years," the Navy said in its statement.
Sitharaman also asked the Navy to have a focussed approach towards the strategically important Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), while assuring additional budget to the tri-service command.