In a week's time, President Pratibha Patil will fly a half hour sortie on a Sukhoi. It's a feat also accomplished by her predecessor, President Kalam.
But setting a tone that could kill Patil's high, the Air Force has offered this startling opinion: in general, training women as pilots just isn't cost-efficient. Explaining that it costs about 11 crores to train a pilot, the Vice Chief of the Air Staff stated, "Nature's way of life is that you get married, bring up a family. Now the latest position on ladies flying is that if a lady goes into family way, she is off-duty for 10 out of 12 months. Now while we can always utilize... a lady in some other job, but in the pure profession in which we have invested so much if the poor lady herself who has contributed so much... if we cannot utilise... then it is not fruitful for either party. But we are looking at it and in a few more years we can see a change coming with certain pre-conditions."
Air Marshal PK Barbora is expected to confront a deluge of angry reactions from women activists, and from women in the Armed Forces, who point out that their careers entail daily battles against sexism.
Officially, defence forces say women are not psychologically fit for combat, but the fact that 75-year old Pratibha Patil has been declared fit to fly only adds insult to the injury.
In her defence, President Pratibha Patil's aides say she hops on the treadmill every morning and evening, and works out often with a yoga instructor.
"The President does want empowerment for women," said Archana Datta, OSD to President.
So, while China, Israel, America and even our neighbours Pakistan have all allowed women into combat, Indian forces remain shy. In their defence, India says only one out of 7 women remain in Pakistan's combat force but that's one more than us.
Air Force said that it was the President's desire to fly a fighter plane but for other women, who are not Supreme Commander of Chief, their wish to fly combat cannot be fulfilled just yet.