New Delhi: Former prime minister Indira Gandhi not only led the country for a number of years, but she also did so during the times of war, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday, in an apparent reference to her role in the 1971 war with Pakistan.
In an address at a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) seminar on the role of women in the armed forces, the defence minister also talked about Rani Laxmi Bai and former president Pratibha Patil, and said India has a positive experience in harnessing women's power in national development.
Singh said though it is justifiable to discuss the role of women in the armed forces, their wider contribution in all spheres of security and nation-building must also be recognised and reinforced.
"There are a number of examples of women taking up arms to protect their country and the rights of the people through history. Rani Laxmi Bai is amongst the most revered and respected amongst them," he said.
"India's former prime minister Indira Gandhi not only led the country for a number of years, she also did so during the times of war. And more recently, Pratibha Patil was the president of India and the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces," the defence minister added.
Under Indira Gandhi's prime ministership, India won the 1971 war against Pakistan that resulted in the birth of Bangladesh.
Singh said the tradition of women as both caregivers and protectors has continued over the centuries and remains deeply embedded in the customs and traditions of the region.