Vasco: The arrival of the French Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group at Goa for the Varuna bilateral naval exercise has offered the Indian Navy an excellent opportunity to understand how women can serve on board frontline warships, naval officials said here on Monday.

Naval officials said the defence ministry, especially defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a strong push for the induction of women on board ships and bilateral naval exercises with foreign navies especially, France, US, British and Australia.

“In the French navy they have almost as high as 15% crew as women on board,” said western fleet commander Rear Admiral Sanjay Jasjit Singh. “These are also issues in our interaction with the French navy and other navies from where we will have takeaways.”

Singh explained that it was just a matter of time when women officers would be allowed to serve on board frontline warships. Newer vessels that are being built for the Indian Navy are being designed and constructed with berthing facilities that cater to women officers.

At present, the Indian Navy allows women in eight branches, including in legal, logistics, naval architecture and engineering departments, but on board vessels. France has opened up its Navy for women to serve on warships and submarines.

“This will factor in our own studies and planning,” Singh said. Aside from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, French air-defence destroyer Forbin, FREMM frigate Provence, anti-submarine warfare frigate Latouche-TrĂ©ville, nuclear attack submarine Amethyste and tanker Marne are participating in Varuna 2019. “We will look to see how the ship’s organisation is, how they manage, what are the division of duties, how they carry out the manning of various operations, what is the quantum of manpower used,” Singh said.

Another naval officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such exercises allowed Indian sailors to learn from their foreign counterparts and also served to facilitate gender sensitisation.