- SC on permanent commission for women in Army
- What’s next for Afghanistan U.S. withdrawing troops?
- The Supreme Court in Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs. Babita Puniya case directed the government to ensure that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission (PC) as well as command postings in all services other than combat.
- After this judgement, women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers approached the Supreme Court challenging the arbitrary process applied in the defence forces to deny permanent commission to women officers.
GS-I: Indian Society (Issues related to Women, Women Empowerment, Issues in Indian Society)
In reference to the landmark judgement of the Supreme Court, what will be the impact of granting permanent commission to women officers in the defence forces? (10 Marks)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Permanent Commission (PC)?
- History of Indian women in the defence services
- SC on eligibility of women for PC
- Government’s arguments and Criticisms taken up in the SC
- Response after the SC verdict
- Implications of the judgement on granting PC to women
- SC on the case challenging procedure followed for granting PC to women
What is Permanent Commission (PC)?
- A Permanent Commission (PC) means a career in the army until one retires. If one gets selected through PC, one has the option to serve the country up to the full age of retirement.
- On the other hand, Short Service Commission (SSC) means an officer’s career will be of a limited period in the Indian Armed Forces. The officers inducted through the SSC usually serve for a period of 14 years.
SSC to PC
At the end of 10 years of service, the officers inducted through the SSC have three options:
- They can either select for a PC
- Opt-out and exit the services
- Take up the 4-years extension (Until the 14 years of SSC), wherein they can resign at any time during this period of 4 years extension.
History of Indian women in the defence services
- In 1888, the role of women in the Indian army began when the “Indian Military Nursing Service” was formed during the British Raj.
- During 1914-45, British Indian Army nurses fought in World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939-45).
- At present, all wings of the Indian Armed Forces allow women in combat roles (junior ranks) and combat supervisory roles (officers), except Indian Army (support roles only) and Special Forces of India (trainer role only) (c. 2017).
- In 1992, the Union Government issued a notification making women eligible for appointment as officers in select non-combat branches. In 2008, the government extended the permanent commission to women in two branches — Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).
- Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted Permanent Commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.
SC on eligibility of women for PC
- The Supreme Court dismissed the Union government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.
- The Supreme Court declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service
- The court dismissed the government’s stand that only women officers with less than 14 years of service ought to be considered for permanent commission, and those with over 20 years of service should be pensioned immediately.
- The SC said that “The battle for gender equality is about confronting the battles of the mind.”
- The court has done away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
- The SC did not extend the benefit of its ruling to those SSC officers who have since retired, however, it granted them pensionary benefits and compensation of`25 lakh to some for loss of the opportunity.
Government’s arguments and Criticisms taken up in the SC
- The Government had proposed that women officers with up to 14 years of service would be granted a permanent commission, while those above 14 years would be permitted to serve for up to 20 years and retire with pension without being considered for permanent commission.
- It also stated that those with more than 20 years of service would immediately be released with pension
- This order did not grant permanent commission to women with over 14 years of service, and hence discriminatory.
- Furthermore, the 2019 government order granted permanent commission only for staff appointments and not command appointments. – The centre justified this by stating that that the units in Army are composed entirely of male soldiers, who are mostly from rural backgrounds and thus, are not mentally prepared to accept women officers in the command of units.
- It also stated that the lower physical capacity of women officers would be a challenge for them to command units wherein officers are expected to lead the men from the front and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
- The government also stated that the adverse conditions, including two unsettled borders and internal security situations in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, have a major bearing on the employment of women officers in light of their physiological limitations. – The Government had stated that the isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and that they have to heed to the call of pregnancy, childbirth and family.
- The government also argued that women ran the risk of capture by the enemy and being taken as prisoners of war.
Response after the SC verdict
- the Defence Ministry issued the government sanction letter, specifying grant of permanent commission to women officers in all streams in which they are presently serving — Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) and Intelligence Corps.
- Following the sanction letter, the Army constituted a special selection board for screening women officers for grant of permanent commission who joined the service through the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) and Short Service Commission Women (SSCW).
- Some petitioners said the process followed for granting permanent commission after medical scrutiny was arbitrary and challenged it in the SC.
Implications of the judgement on granting PC to women
- The SC did away with all discrimination on the basis of years of service for grant of PC in 10 streams of combat support arms and services, bringing them on a par with male officers.
- It has also removed the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments, which is the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment.
- It means that women officers will be eligible to the tenant all the command appointments, at par with male officers, which would open avenues for further promotions to higher ranks for them.
- It also means that in junior ranks and career courses, women officers would be attending the same training courses and tenanting critical appointments, which are necessary for higher promotions.
SC on the case challenging procedure followed for granting PC to women
- The SC observed that the pattern of evaluation inherently caused economic and psychological harm to women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers and the evaluation criteria set by the Army constituted “systemic discrimination” against the petitioners.
- According to the SC: All women officers who have fulfilled the cut-off grade of 60% in the Special Selection Board shall be entitled to the grant of permanent commission.
- The court directed that the method of evaluation of ACR (Annual Confidential Reports) and the cut-off must be reviewed for future batches to assess a disproportionate impact on WSSCOs who became eligible for the grant of permanent commission in the subsequent years of their service.
-Source: The Hindu
- Recently, the USA President has envisaged a New Peace Initiative (Plan) to decide on the roadmap for peace in Afghanistan under which the possibility that the USA troops, currently deployed in Afghanistan, to remain in deployment there has been kept open.
- The U.S. could abide by the promise made in the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February 2020 to withdraw the last of the around 2,500 American marines stationed in Afghanistan, but The Current U.S. President Joe Biden has said it would be tough given the levels of violence there.
GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Foreign policies and developments affecting India’s Interests)
India’s position has been to back an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled” peace process, backing the elected government. Discuss. What is India’s involvement in the Afghan peace negotiations? (15 Marks)
Dimensions of the Article:
- History of Afghan War
- Causes that aggravated the Afghan problem
- About the U.S. Deal with Taliban
- New U.S. President Biden’s New Peace Initiative (Plan)
- India’s Role in Peace Process Through “Unified Approach”
- Relations Between India and Afghanistan
- Conclusion of India’s position in Afghan peace process
- Significance Afghanistan with respect to India
- International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
- Chabahar Port
- Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI)
History of Afghan War
- The Afghan war dates back to 1978 when communist government was established in Afghanistan.
- Insurgency started against communist government led by Mujahedeen’s and Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in 1979 with troops to protect the communist government.
- Since then, Afghanistan has been in a state of turmoil for the last 40 years including a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrawal in 1989.
- The Taliban, ultraconservative political and religious faction that emerged in Afghanistan, came to power in 1996 and were later ousted from power by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in an effort to counter Al-Qaeda in 2001.
- The Taliban has steadily expanded its reach since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014 and now it controls more than 14 districts (4% of the country).
Causes that aggravated the Afghan problem
- Intervention by global and regional powers for e.g. U.S.-Russia tensions are creating space for proxies for both on Afghan soil, and the attacks by al-Qaeda and IS-related terror groups have their roots in the larger war between Iran and the Arab world.
- Tensions between India and Pakistan also cast a shadow over Afghanistan, with India’s development assistance under attack.
- USA has failed to evolve a cohesive strategy regarding military aid to Pakistan, troop presence in Afghanistan, indiscriminate use of airpower or infrastructure building in the country.
- U.S. and Western governments have tried to win the war for Afghans by deploying large numbers of Western military forces and flooding Afghanistan with large amounts of assistance, which has irked the indigenous tribes. Given the terrain and the tactics of avoiding set-piece battles adopted by the Taliban, the continuous use of air power has failed to change the trajectory of the war.
About the U.S. Deal with Taliban
- The United States said it is committed to reducing the number of its troops to 2,500 from 13,000 by May 2021.
- The U.S. deal also spoke about working with allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan, if the Taliban were to adhere to its commitments.
- According to the agreement, a full withdrawal of all foreign forces would occur within 14 months of the deal getting signed if the Taliban holds up its end of the deal.
New U.S. President Biden’s New Peace Initiative (Plan)
- The New Peace Initiative (Plan) has kept open the possibility that the USA troops, currently deployed in Afghanistan, might stay on for a longer time.
- The USA is pressing the Taliban to accept an immediate agreement to reduce violence for 90 days that will provide the space for the peace initiative.
- The USA will not be “dictating terms” to the Afghan parties, but facilitating an inclusive interim government, an agreement on the “foundational principles” for a new political order, and a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.
- The USA is also asking Turkey to convene a meeting of the government in Kabul (capital of Afghanistan) and the Taliban to finalise a peace settlement.
- The USA asked the United Nations to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers from China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, India and the United States to develop a “unified approach” to peace in Afghanistan.
India’s Role in Peace Process Through “Unified Approach”
- India is an important player in the peace process – it has also been acknowledged by the USA.
- India supports all efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan which are inclusive and Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
- India has invested heavily in infrastructure developments, training security forces and supplying them with necessary equipment.
- India has a major stake in the stability of Afghanistan since it has invested considerable resources in Afghanistan’s development.
- India hopes to have a role in setting the terms especially concerning terrorism, violence, women’s rights and democratic values.
Relations Between India and Afghanistan
- Relations between the people of Afghanistan and India traces to the Indus Valley Civilisation.
- Between the 10th century to the mid-18th century, northern India has been invaded by a number of invaders based in what today is Afghanistan. Among them were the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khaljis, Suris, Mughals and Durranis.
- India shares border with Pakistan and there is the Durand Line conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- The Republic of India was the only South Asian country to recognize the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s, though relations were diminished during the 1990s Afghan civil war and the Taliban government.
Conclusion of India’s Position in the Afghan peace process
- India’s position has been to back an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled” peace process, backing the elected government in Kabul, and it has not yet held talks with the Taliban directly.
- As a result, its option remains to stand with the Ghani government and support the constitution that guarantees a democratic process and rights of women and minorities, over any plans the Taliban might have if they come to power.
- At the same time, India has not foreclosed the option of talking to the Taliban if it does join the government in Afghanistan, and in a first step, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar addressed the Doha inauguration of intra-Afghan talks last year.
- The government has not yet announced a special envoy on Afghanistan, who could be a part of the UN-led process for regional countries, but it has made it clear that it seeks to be an integral part of the process, as the outcomes will have a deep impact on India’s security matrix as well.
Significance Afghanistan with respect to India
Afghanistan is a strategic investment for India, and India has made significant contributions to the rebuilding of the country.
Indian is engaged with Afghanistan by following ways:
- Developing social infrastructure as hospitals, schools;
- Public infrastructure such as Salma dam, and parliament building ;
- Humanitarian assistance such as medical missions;
- Training of military officer and soldiers;
- Military warfare such as military helicopters and repairing the old soviet era helicopters.
- Afghanistan is a gateway for The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for India.
- India’s development of the Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for the development of regional maritime transit traffic to Afghanistan and Central Asia
- Afghanistan is also involved in The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) Project.
- Afghanistan can help India to overcome/oppose China’s The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or B&R), formerly known as One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.
- Afghanistan can help fulfil India’s Oil demands.
- The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited. The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.
International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
- The International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a multi-modal connectivity project to establish transport networks (ship, rail, and road route) for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- It links Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran, and then onwards to northern Europe via St. Petersburg in Russia.
- The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road.
- The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali and etc.
- The current members are India, Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Oman, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, and Bulgaria (observer).
- Turkmenistan currently is not a formal member but is likely to have road connectivity to the corridor, after being formally invited by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- This port is Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
- With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI)
- The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited.
- The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.
- The pipeline will begin pumping natural gas by the beginning of 2020 and supply life is expected to last for 30 years.
- The TAPI Project is considered as an important initiative of these four countries to connect energy rich Central Asia with energy starved South Asia.
- It will provide an alternative supply source of gas with dependable reserves leading to enhanced energy security.
- It will further diversify the fuel basket to the benefit of Indian economy as it would be used mainly in power, fertilizer and city gas sectors.
-Source: The Hindu