Pune: Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane on Friday said as the National Defence Academy (NDA) opens its doors to women cadets, it is expected that they will be welcomed with the same sense of fair play and professionalism for which the Indian armed forces are known world-over.

Women's induction will be the "first step towards gender equality" in the armed forces, and "at least forty years down the line" women would in the same position where he is, the army chief said. He was addressing the cadets after reviewing the passing-out-parade of the 141st course of the NDA here.

"As we open the portals of the NDA for women cadets, we expect you to welcome them with the same sense of fair play and professionalism as Indian armed forces are known world over," Gen Naravane said.

Last month, the Supreme Court allowed women candidates to take the NDA entrance exam in November this year. Interacting with media persons after the parade, Gen Naravane said that as women are being inducted into NDA, he is sure that they will perform better than their male counterparts.

"This is just the first step towards gender equality as the army has always been at the forefront of all initiatives that have been taken in the country. As a result of this, they will also get empowered. They will hold more challenging assignments," he added.

"It's not that we don't have women officers. We already have women officers undergoing training at OTA (Officers Training Academy) at Chennai. They are exceedingly doing well. I am sure that the Academy will continue to prosper and flourish and bring fame and glory," Gen Naravane said.

Asked about how he sees the role of women in the armed forces in the next 20 to 30 years, he said, "At least 40 years down the line, they will be standing where I am standing."

To a question on whether there will be any infrastructural changes in view of women joining the NDA, he said that infrastructure will be slightly changed as per the requirements, but the training would remain the same."

As far as training is concerned that will not be any different. The training will be held jointly and there will be no difference in the training standards. The same regime of the officers training at OTA will be followed," he said. During his speech, the army chief also appealed the cadets to keep themselves abreast of new technology to counter the contemporary challenges. He said he was greatly honoured to review the passing-out-parade.

"A little over 42 years back, when I stood as a cadet at the same drill square as you stand today, little I could have imagined that I would be reviewing this parade," he said. "From here on, you will step into the respective career service academies for more focused military training. You will don different uniforms, but always remember that no single service by itself can fight and win modern wars,” he added.

Gen Naravane also thanked the parents for believing in the armed forces as a worthy career for their children. "You have raised them with love and affection, now we have taken on that role. They were your children till yesterday, they are ours now on. We should nurture them, cherish them and even admonish them but we shall always be with them in sun and snow, in bad times and good and in war and in peace," he said.

The army chief also said that cadets often think the days of serious studies "are behind now". "However, new developments and niche technologies are transforming the very character of war faster than ever before. Therefore it is very important that you keep yourselves abreast with these changes through regular professional courses," he said.

"The physical stamina needs to be matched with technical prowess and constant thirst for knowledge," Gen Naravane added. While speaking to reporters, he also said as far as the induction of new technology in the armed forces is concerned, India is in no way behind any developed country.

"We have the best of the equipment that is available and it will be very heartening to know most of the state-of-the-art technology and systems, especially IT-related and surveillance related equipment have been brought from the Indian companies, from small start-ups, from MSMEs," he said.

Over 1,000 cadets participated in the parade of which 305 cadets were from the passing out course. This included 220 Army cadets, 41 Naval cadets, and 44 Air Force cadets including 19 cadets from friendly foreign countries.