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Open to women in combat roles: India's first woman defence minister
Posted:Sep 3, 2017
 
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India's new Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said she is keeping an "open mind" on women in combat roles -- a matter that Army Chief Bipin Rawat said is being looked into. Few nations have women in combat roles, an issue that's seen as a fallout of gender divide.  
 
"After my taking charge, I will be certainly be going through a lot of what has happened on that front... I will keep an open mind and look into the matter," 58-year-old Ms Sitharaman said after she was appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a cabinet reshuffle.
 
Women are allowed in some select areas in the army - including medical, legal, signals and engineering wings. But in June, General Rawat had assured that the army is ready to open up combat positions for women and it will begin with inducting them as military police. Last year, the Indian Air Force had inducted three women as fighter pilots.
 
So far, only Germany, Australia, Canada, the US, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Sweden and Israel have allowed women in combat roles.
 
Sitharaman - who became the first woman defence minister of India since Indira Gandhi handled the portfolio as Prime Minister nearly three decades ago - said PM Modi is known for his support to women.
 
Sitharaman, who also became the second woman after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to gain entry to the crucial Cabinet Committee for Security or CCS, said the decision was a "big message" to the world.
 
Arun Jaitley, whose defence portfolio was handed over to Sitharaman, hailed the appointment of the country's first, full-fledged Defence Minister, saying it sends a global message. The Finance Minister, who held the additional charge of defence, had been saying that he wished to focus entirely on the finance portfolio.
 
"It is great for the country, not just for the women. It also sends a message globally," Jaitley said.
 
So far, 18 of 51 European nations have had women defence ministers. Norway has had five women defence ministers, Sweden three.
 
 
 
 
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