Lt Gen Ashok Joshi (Retd) and Col Anil Athale (Retd)
Thomas Hobbes, a 16th century English philosopher and one of the pioneers of “realist” theory in his work “Leviathan” described “man in the state of nature”. He says that in the absence of a state, “it’s everybody’s war against everybody. The life of man, wicked, brutal and short ”. Replace the man with “soldier” and the above sentence aptly describes the battlefield where the law of the jungle prevails. Armed forces training and routines are organized to create these conditions in peacetime so that soldiers, sailors and airmen are prepared to face this deadly contest and emerge victorious from war. Victory is the only option in war. The concepts of equality, morality and ethics are irrelevant in the context of war. In any case, it is the winner who has the last word on what is right.
But, from afar, the Indians of the last millennia advanced the concept of “Dharma-Yuddha”, perhaps because of the Indian epics. It was a departure from reality and terrible consequences. “Surprise and deception” is a principle of war. The armed forces are there to deceive and deceive the enemy in order to be able to defeat him. Is it any wonder that Indian military history, from afar, reads like a chronicle of military catastrophes? Only realists, not idealists, can win in war. Our national effort must be aimed at making the war machine more effective and efficient, and in that order. The Supreme Court judgment of 20 September 21 should only be interpreted in this context. The objective should be to use for this purpose – increased effectiveness and efficiency of the armed forces – the special capacities and skills natural to women. The law treats men and women as equals, but nature does not. The special requirements of women, such as maternity leave, etc., must be met. Does this sound like an effort to square the circle? Not quite, but almost.
The UPSC has already acted on the Supreme Court ruling. This means that in addition to the army medical corps, women will be eligible for a commission in all three-armed services.
From the outset, we would like to make it clear that we are not opposed to women joining the armed forces and sharing the burden of defending the nation. Our only concern is that this change improves the ability of the armed forces to fight and win wars effectively.
The best approach would be to determine the slots that can be filled by the female officer by replacing her current male counterpart; and conversely, when such a replacement is not desirable or feasible. Some general considerations should be asked, for example the following in the case of the military:
(1) The possibility of a female officer being taken a prisoner of war or entering close combat is minimal;
(2) At least two female officers must be assigned;
(3) A female officer with a child under six months of age should not be assigned to a non-family post.
The above, translated into practical terms, would mean that female officers can only be assigned either in peacekeeping positions or on their own side of divisional boundaries in case of operational divisions.
After undertaking such an exercise, it should be possible to arrive at the number of female officers that can be absorbed by each service. Among the slots which can be filled by female officers, those where feminine qualities would be advantageous for the Service should be specially reserved.
By undertaking such an exercise, the standards should not be lowered. At this stage, a check should be made to determine the promotion prospects for female officers without showing special consideration.
Assuming that only highly motivated women would opt for the armed forces, it is highly likely that they would be comparatively more enthusiastic and committed, they could improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the armed forces. If that didn’t happen, nothing would be gained. It is obvious that the extra effort on the part of the organization through special adjustments and care would only lead to frustration.
The Navy and Air Force should decide whether locations in submarines or fighter squadrons can be open to women given that the modern aircraft subjects the body to tremendous stress from gravity or from several Gs. times higher than normal. What would be the impact on a pregnant woman pilot should consider. This is only one of the dangers. The case of the underwater environment is similar. In the case of the military, the living and combat environments change rapidly as one advances towards the front line. The living and fighting environment on the front line is very demanding. The feeling of deprivation is overwhelming. This can harm the combat potential of all individuals, unless the difficult training is rigorous and deliberately undertaken. Two-thirds of the army are deployed on the border which is “live”. Here beside the enemy, nature itself is harsh.
The conditions under which a soldier, sailor or air warrior works are defined as much by nature, equipment, and enemy. None of these elements can be changed to create a work environment favorable to women.
At a future date, when the battlefields will be dominated by robots and artificial intelligence, whether it is a man or a woman who leads the war will no longer matter. But we are still far from this situation.
Given the complexity of the living environment and battlefield conditions, it would be preferable to leave it to the professional leadership of the armed forces to identify the niches, the appropriate training institutions and the processes that would utilize the unique talent that own women.
To achieve the above objective, a commission comprising professionals, judicial representatives and women’s organizations should be formed to study the whole issue in depth and make appropriate recommendations. The current exercise of global assimilation of men and women without taking into account its effects on the ability of the armed forces to carry out their task is fraught with challenges as we face a threat on two fronts.
It is open to the government to apply to the Supreme Court to ask it to approve the appointment by the government of such a commission so that the issue is examined in depth. We could ask the Commission to present its recommendations in a few years.
In the meantime, the admission of women to the NDA could be suspended. This delay would not cause great harm. On the other hand, decisions taken without a full and detailed study of the matter could have a negative impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the armed forces which may not even be immediately visible.