Nirmala Sitharaman, like France’s Florence Parly, will head the defence forces of a nuclear-armed nation, but unlike the European country, India does not allow women in combat roles in the Army.
Her appointment as the defence minister has put Sitharaman in a select group of female leaders, 16 to be precise, who lead the armed forces of their respective nations.
But Sitharaman and Parly have the added distinction of leading the forces of nuclear-armed nations.
France allows women in combat roles, except on submarines and in riot-control. The other countries in this club include Germany, Australia, Canada, the US, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Israel.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat had said in June that the Indian Army was all set to open up combat positions for women and that initially women would be recruited for positions in military police.
The Indian Air Force had last year inducted three women as fighter pilots, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis.
Bangladesh, India’s eastern neighbour, is a part of the exclusive club of nations having women defence ministers.
Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina also holds the defence portfolio like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who helmed the defence ministry in 1975 and again between 1980 and 1982.
The other countries in this league include Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Spain, Nicaragua, South Africa, Norway, Kenya, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and the Republic of Macedonia.