As the curtain closed on the 83rd Airforce Day Parade, it marked the dawn of a historic era in the records of the Indian Airforce. It has finally decided to allow them to become fighter pilots. This is a particularly striking decision when compared with the fact that both the Indian Army and Navy have ruled out potential induction of women in any form of combat roles. In the words of Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, “We are now planning to induct them into the fighter stream to meet the aspirations of young women of India.”
In the past the IAF too has expressed reservation citing the kind of torture that women might be subjected to if they were imprisoned in enemy territory. Additionally the limitations that marriage or a child might pose has often been shown as a reason. However the budding Airforce enthusiasts seem undeterred. Many of them were quoted anonymously saying, “Just like women in many other challenging professions handle home and work and have found the right balance, they would be able to achieve the same in Defence Services too.”
This IAF decision come close on the heels of a recent decision by the esteemed High Court of Delhi which allowed permanent commission fo women officers in the Indian Naval Forces. The same court had in 2010 allowed the permanent commission of women officers in Army and Airforce.
Currently the Indian Airforce has over 90 pilots and about 15 of them hold the position of navigators. This is particularly a heartening decision and could well act as a boost for many other women to join the forces as well. To start with IAF said that women officers would be assigned ground based roles for the Indian Airforce. However the proposal allowing this might take close to a year to get the Defence Ministry’s approval.