Women As Commanding Officers Will It Boost National Security?

"The paramount circumstance for creating Indian Armed Forces is, must be and will remain; the strategic and tactical security of India, her people, her lands, her seas and her airspace." Opines Gp Capt A.G Bewoor

Women As Commanding Officers Will It Boost National Security?

Can the Judgment be Implemented?

We have not understood the implications of the Supreme Court (SC) order on giving Permanent Commission (PC) to women and entitling them to be Commanding Officers (CO). There is jubilation. The basis for the judgment is the Constitution which enshrines equality without bias of gender, caste, religion and so on. Like all SC rulings this one will be studied, affected departments will work out methodologies to implement. The SC never goes into the nuts and bolts of how their judgments will be carried out; they give a ruling based on the law, and on what courts of other countries have done on the same issue. Sad, but that is how it is. Can the Executive convert a judgment into implementable action? Take the SC ruling of 2018 that Delhi can only burn Green Fire Crackers. The judgment was widely violated, and the SC could do nothing about it. How many people will they hold in contempt?

Grant of Permanent Commission Was Correct

Granting PC to girls was correct. The unfair Terms & Conditions of Service for our daughters / wives / nieces/ daughters-in-law / sisters/ aunts/ mothers had to be remedied. The grant of PC should have been initiated in-house by the Armed Forces; our intransigent attitude resulted in the SC stepping in, and now girls can be COs. Fine. Consider; had the grant of PC to girls been a decision at the Combined Commanders‟ Conference of the three Services, the SC would never have come into the picture. It was in our own interest that the women should get PC. The matter of CO would never have risen, and the grant of PC to girls would have sent triumphant vibes with all credit going exclusively to the Armed Forces. That is why the adage, “the only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is, getting an old idea out”. Unfortunately the SC ruling giving Command at Unit level is a mistake. Let‟s see how. We will confine ourselves to the Indian Army for better understanding.

Training Schedule for Boys and Girls

Some demand that since girls can get PC and be COs, their pre-commission training should be four years similar to NDA + IMA pattern. This is misplaced. Today all girls and boys who pass-out of Officers‟ Training Academy OTA, earn a Short Service Commission SSC, but only boys can opt for PC. Now girls can opt for PC, equality achieved. No one can state that the OTA output is below par when compared to NDA – IMA output. Men and women officers from OTA have performed very creditably. Now girls who aspire for PC will go through the routine and special tests, courses of instruction, and examinations. They must hold specified tenures in "criteria" appointments, as boys do. There are mandatory courses with good grades that any SSC officer must earn to get a PC and become a CO. Even the NDA / IMA officers have to go through this very same process, there is no shortcut for them. Now girls will traverse the same route before being „looked at‟ to become COs.

Making Commanding Officers

The officer, girl or boy, serves for about 18 years before becoming a CO. The pool of officers to select COs has increased with girls included, but CO slots are the same. Our Army has not expanded to accommodate women COs. The steep pyramid remains, the Base has become larger with girls. The SC does not know this fact, did it look only at the Constitution and Law, not how will the Army implement this ruling? If the number of girls approved for CO is not as expected, there will pucca be charges of anti-woman bias. So we are exactly where we were, not an inch forward nor a centimetre higher, this ground reality the judges have ignored. No one explained it to them and not one judge asked for the whys and wherefores of How Will It Be Done? This is not how the military prepares for war. In the fauj there are no recesses, no recusing, no reserved judgments; the job has to be done, here and now. Did the learned justices take inputs from the Armed Forces who will action their judgment? If not, why not? What prevents SC judges to seek opinions from the executers of the order? You cannot run a nation, its departments and indeed it's judiciary by seeking answers from the Constitution alone, this is self evident. Readers must appreciate the complexity of training, selecting and finally appointing Commanding Officers in the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The buck stops at the CO, always has, always will be.

What Are You Comparing?

Indian women have reached the pinnacle in many professions with their dedication and brilliance, and without getting privileges. If a girl can climb Mt Everest why cannot she become a Commanding Officer? Because Everest does not fire AK-47 bullets to kill you, nor does Nandadevi throw grenades at climbers. India's enemies do. So breaking ceilings may sound sweet, but when that ceiling shatters with incendiary fire, the difference between a lady space scientist or corporate queen and a girl CO unravels. The highest court must know the difference between commanding a military unit and leading a group of epidemiologists to create vaccines against Covid 19. Even in non-combat units, the CO leads from the front. Failures happen, soldiers die, lose eyes, become paraplegic, some remain unscathed. The CO must guide from the Front Line of her unit; within range of grenades, bullets, artillery, bombing from aeroplanes. There is no going back; there are no Second Chances in battle. On the other hand, when Chandrayan failed, men & women alike, went back to their computers for the next Moon Shot, they get second, third and fourth chances. So please do not compare the achievements of female scientists,managers, mountaineers, cricketers, shuttlers with women commanding a battalion in the Indian Army. You are comparing jungle tigresses with domestic cats; you are comparing migratory flamingos with resident egrets. Since the SC wanted it, let us appoint a lady as the Commanding Officer.

Lets Make Her The CO

There are aggressive assertions by ill informed activists that men & women are same in all aspects at all times. A typical CO would have about 18 years service, age 39 years, when appointed as CO. The man and woman would be in their prime, fit, healthy, physically strong, alert, with "josh", trained in all aspects. Each would have to march, walk, run, fight, deploy, and retreat with their men in all types of weather, terrain, seasons and limited facilities. Don‟t close your minds readers. By that age our girl would most likely be married with one if not two children. The stern toll this takes on the female system cannot be ignored, and who knows this better than women. The physical stress of a CO is not the same as being a CMD, CEO, CFO, CTO, Addl Secy or Chief Scientist. People will scream, India wants gender equality; this is negativity, misogyny, chauvinism. Not accepted. What those who are screaming have slyly left out of the debate is; the irrefutable truth that the stamina, strength, and energy reserves of a 40 year old mother of two will be decidedly less, when compared with the stamina, strength and energy reserves of a 40 year old father of two. Both are Army officers, both COs, both trained by the same instructors, both earned good reports, yet the lady cannot match up to the man in many crucial aspects. That this truth is being deliberately hidden is dangerous for our women and will cause avertable casualties. Be mindful, the one thing an Indian soldier will not accept, his women officer being killed or maimed by enemy fire. Be he from a village, town, metro; old, young, married, bachelor, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, sepoy or subedar, it is just unacceptable. Tragically none of you gender warriors have integrated this into your narrative. So we have made them COs, now what? Put girls in Combat Units next?

Battle Is Not A Game

We hear audacious declarations to put women in combat units. Naive activists brag that, induction of women in Combat Arms of the Army is just another SC judgment away. Appreciate, leading a parade on Rajpath and fighting a hardened enemy is dissimilar. Battle is unadulterated violence; and we thrust Indian women into this ambience to ensure gender equality? Ladies read carefully about a typical combat, where some of you want to put our girls. A battle with insurgents is on, Major Ravi Kapur is leading, lots of bullets flying, orders shouted, unpredictable outcome. Very normal. Then a burst of AK-47 hits Ravi in the belly and thighs and he starts bleeding profusely, very normal. At once, Subedar Charan Das and Sepoy Raj Kumar rip off his clothes and underwear, apply first aid packs to arrest the bleeding; if they do not, Ravi will bleed to death. Ravi near naked is carried back. Very normal. Replace Ravi with Rani, since the SC has put Rani in Ravi‟s place, as per the Constitution. When Rani is hit by AK-47, the process is exactly the same; the arteries in Rani are no different from the arteries of Ravi. Charan Das and Raj Kumar will rip off Rani‟s clothes and underwear, and apply the packs like they did to Ravi. If they do not, Rani will die. Rani is also near naked while being carried back. Bullets are still flying, Charan Das and Raj Kumar have done what they have been trained to do, Ravi or Rani, clothes will be ripped off, hands will touch all parts of the anatomy, the nakedness of Ravi will not bother him or others, it will trouble Rani to have been exposed in front of so many males, defenceless and nude. Later, activists, Me Too lawyers, judges, netas, will want to know whether Charan Das and Raj Kumar touched Rani “inappropriately”. Did they take advantage of her? Did the jawans of the medical platoon, and male doctors behave and handle Rani correctly? The accusation spreads uncontrolled across social media, TV, legislatures and finds its way into the SC. That Charan Das and Raj Kumar saved Rani Kapur's life is ignored. And they did all this amidst enemy fire, utter chaos, fear, noise. Had they hesitated in tearing off Rani‟s clothes, she would have died in their arms. This is combat in the Indian Army. Amazingly, equality activists and judges have blissfully ignored it. Tragic, for the girl COs only.  

Everything Cannot Be Mixed

It is odious to compare what foreign countries do in their militaries. They do not have raging insurgencies where their women take part in front line combat. Why is the demand for men & women mixed teams in Armed Forces only? How come activists don't want mixed teams in cricket, hockey, wresting, basketball, athletics, football? Do not liken flying a Boeing 777 and leading soldiers against a Pakistani attack as same. Why did the Constitution create Indian Armed Forces? It was to make India secure against external aggression and internal threats, not to create equal opportunities for men and women. So, changes in the military’s command and control structure; should be only to enhance the fighting capacity of the Armed Forces. I say give the girls PC, make them COs when they match up, and many will, but do so with utmost forethought. One final thought, do we really want our girls to lead a charge at the enemy defences, khukri in hand, fangs bared like Mahakali, screaming, “Jay Durga?" The paramount circumstance for creating Indian Armed Forces is, must be and will remain; the strategic and tactical security of India, her people, her lands, her seas and her airspace. Does the SC judgment for ensuring gender equality, fortify this security?

Role Of Women In Indian Military Needs Critical Review
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Review Of Role Of Women In Indian Military: A Debate
“Women officer candidates ought to be adjudged in all military aspects in total parity from Academy days right up to Lt Col. There cannot be partiality for or against. Similarly postings must also be similarly handed” - Opines Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma, former Adjutant General
Women In Indian Military - Debate Continues
“The word ‘Debate’ in an article is enough to steer the conversation on two extremes. The responses need to be fact based and objective and not subjective. Additionally, these responses need to be backed by data and not anecdotal” - Opines Capt Shilpa Saxena

About The Author

Gp Capt AG Bewoor was commissioned in the Indian Air Force in 1965 into the Transport Stream. He was one of the pioneer members to induct the IL-76 into the IAF. He flew the first IL-76 into Male during the abortive coup in Maldives in 1988. This, along with the other operations, earned him the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) in 1990. He took premature retirement in 1993 while serving as the COO of 3 Wing at AFS Palam. He regularly contributes to military journals and magazines. He can be reached on Email: [email protected]

(Views expressed are the author's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)

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