Army Chief General M M Naravane welcomed the Supreme Court order on women in Army. (PTI File Photo/Atul Yadav)
Welcoming the Supreme Court’s judgment on Permanent Commission for women in the Army and for them to be considered for Command Posting, Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane said on Thursday that it is a “very enabling judgment and gives us clarity”.
He said that "it brings out a sense of clarity and purpose to gainfully employ officers for better efficiency of the organisation”.
“Indian Army does not discriminate any soldier based on religion, caste, creed, or even gender. The outlook of the Indian Army has been throughout like this and that is why we started inducting Women Officers as early as in 1993."
Calling the Army “champion of gender equality” Naravane said that the “Indian Army has taken the initiative to induct women in rank and file, and the first batch of 100 women soldiers is undergoing training at Corps of Military Police Center and School."
He "assured" that "everyone in the Indian Army including women officers will be given equal opportunity to contribute to the nation as also progress in their careers”.
Regarding the process forward, he said the “first task at hand is to comply with the Supreme Court’s order” and added that “we will be sending out letters to everyone” to give them the option “whether they want to be considered for Permanent Commission”. The process will be the same for men and women officers, and “same rule for everyone, exactly same” will be applicable.
When the next batches of women are trained “then all these factors will be taken into consideration” from the beginning.
Commenting on possible creation of an independent command for the entire border of Jammu and Kashmir and other theater commands, which, the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had said earlier this week should start rolling out by end of 2022, Naravane was more cautious on the timeline. He said that it is “at very preliminary stages of discussion” and the ideas are still being “bounced around”. He said that it is “at the moment very loud thinking on our part”. “We must always have a plan” and have “timelines for planning process”, but he said, the eventual rollout “may take much longer time than that”.
Talking about the new Thal Sena Bhawan to be built in the Delhi Cantonment, for which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will lay the foundation stone on Friday morning, the Army Chief said that the proposed "Thal Sena Bhawan will bring all Army headquarter offices under one roof thereby improving the working efficiency, while reducing the carbon footprint and logistics requirements". He said that it will also "allow more family time for all soldiers tenating peace posting at Delhi.”
He explained the new nearly 40-acre compound will consolidate all the Army offices that are scattered around Delhi and will also help in fulfilling the space shortage of 49 per cent.
However, offices of senior functionaries like the Army Chief and the Vice Chief will continue to be “co-located with” the Defence Minister’s office, “wherever that might be”.
Back from Kashmir recently, the Army Chief said that “we are in the process now of formulating a new strategy for the summer which will be catering for all contingencies and will be people friendly and in sync with the various government initiatives” and said that the strategy should cause people “least inconvenience”.
He said that the general law and order “has improved manifold” in Kashmir and “the incidents of terrorism and terror-related violence have seen a downturn”.
But, “conversely” the Line of Control “remains very active” he added. He said that infiltrators in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are present in camps and launchpads, and Pakistan resorts to ceasefire violations “to aide them”. “We are taking all the steps and no infiltration attempt has been successful”.
Army keeps getting “information of attempts to do such activities, the infiltration or BAT action” but because the troops “on the LC are very well trained and always in a high state of alertness they have been able to foil any such actions even before they can be attempted”.
There are camps and launchpads, which are flexible in numbers, and mentioned that there are 15 to 20 camps in which anywhere between 250 to 300 infiltrators can be present, most of which are in PoK.
As snow melts infiltration attempts increase, “keeping that in mind we will have to recalibrate” while coming up with a summer strategy. He commented that the commanders on the ground have “full freedom” to shift troops as per their requirements.
Mentioning an “external dimension to the decrease in cross-border terrorism” the Army Chief said that if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “comes down heavily on (Pakistan), they may have to rethink on their rhetoric and activities”. He said that “even China has realised they cannot back their all-weather friend all the time”.
Asked about any defence deals to be announced during US President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit, Naravane said that “we have a number of proposals in the pipeline, they are in advanced stages” and will mature on their own time. Regarding some specific projects, including buying six Apache AH-64E helicopters, he said should happen before March.