Former Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Naravane (Retd) highlighted the issue of diversity in the Indian armed forces, emphasizing the delayed inclusion of women in military training institutes compared to neighboring countries like Bangladesh. Speaking at the Natcon 2023 national conference co-managed by the National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM), General Naravane discussed the importance of diversity in the armed forces and pointed out the differences in gender inclusivity between India and its neighbors.

General Naravane noted that Bangladesh had begun admitting women cadets to its military academy, equivalent to India’s National Defence Academy (NDA), as early as the 2000s. In contrast, India only started inducting women cadets into NDA in July 2022. He stressed the need to prioritize diversity in all aspects of military service.

The Indian armed forces initiated the entry of women cadets into the NDA by inducting 19 cadets every six months. The first batches of women cadets began training at NDA in July 2022 as part of the 148th course, set to graduate in May 2025. As of January 2023, the Indian Army had 1,733 women officers, excluding the Army medical corps. The government approved permanent commission for women officers in 12 arms and services, along with the Army medical corps, Army dental corps, and military nursing service. The Army has been committed to ensuring gender parity and a gender-neutral environment for women officers.

General Naravane acknowledged the challenges associated with transitioning from short service commissions to permanent commissions for women cadets. He also mentioned that the inclusion of women cadets in combat roles would happen gradually over time. In April, a group of five women officers was inducted into the Regiment of Artillery, a combat support arm of the Army, with three of them serving in frontline units along the northern border.

India’s efforts to enhance diversity and promote gender inclusivity in its armed forces are gradually progressing, with a commitment to providing equal opportunities and recognition to women officers.