Women's role in combat needs a deeper look: Army Chief

"Women have a role in the Army. They have a role in lot of aspects that the Army does. If you are looking at actual combat, I think we have to think more deeply about it," he told reporters after reviewing a passing out parade at the Officers' Training Academy here.

The role of women in combat "is not a simple question of saying whether they have to go to combat or not," he said emphasising that the issue required a "deeper look".

"The army, wherever it operates, whether in the frontline or the people who supporting it, everybody is in combat," the Army Chief said.

The Indian armed forces have a cumulative strength of about 2,200 women officers amidst growing demand for providing them permanent commission in the combat streams including infantry and artillery and as fighter pilots in the IAF.

In August, the government had told the Supreme Court that the male officers who are given permanent commission alone can go for training for command appointment (combat).

The government submission came during hearing on a petition filed by the Army challenging a Delhi High Court judgement directing the armed forces to grant permanent commission to women serving in the armed forces.

At the passing out parade, Gen Singh awarded city-based A Divya the 'Sword of Honour' for being the best all-round cadet, making her its first woman recipient.

To a question on Divya's feat,  he said the Army never looked at the gender and valued a person's merit.

"It is not a question of man or woman. It is a question of merit. It shows how the system works and we don't look at the gender and look at how good a person is and that is what has happened today," he said.

Divya said her priority was to pass out of the prestigious institution and she was looking forward to her tenure in the force. She also commanded today's parade, marking the completion of training of 244 gentleman and lady cadets to be inducted into the Indian army as officers.

In his address, Gen Singh said the Indian army had a formidable image at home and abroad for its professionalism, discipline and dedication and had delivered exemplary services during internal and external challenges and other peace-keeping operations and rehabilitation works.

He exhorted the cadets to be prepared for the challenges involved in conventional and proxy war.

Fifteen cadets from Afghanistan and two lady cadets from Lesotho, a republic in southern Africa, also graduated from the OTA today.

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