Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat today said India was engaging with Australia, Japan and the US to "ensure freedom of navigation" in the oceans.
He said this in response to a question from one of the students of the Government Law College, Mumbai, who interacted with the Chief of the Army Staff at the South Block here, as part of a study tour.
"We were the the original founders of the Non-Aligned Movement ... Instead of going for alliances, we have had engagement with various countries.
"And, the countries, you mentioned, we are getting into an engagement with them (Australia, Japan and the US), to ensure there is freedom of navigation in the oceans, the Indian Ocean, where 70 per cent of the world trade passes through," Rawat said.
"We want to ensure there is a safe passage for everyone in the region. So, this association with these people is to ensure the freedom of navigation," he said.
On a question, whether women be seen in combat roles in future, the Army chief, said, "We are prepared, but is the society ready?"
He cited instances of tough regimen that entails life of a soldier in combat roles, and social mores invloved with women to emphasise his point.
Out of 22 students who interacted with the Army chief, 17 were young women.
"We arrived in Delhi on March 4 for a week-long Delhi study tour. We are also meeting other public figures," said Priyanka Chumbhale, a student.
On a question on budgeting for defence, Rawat said, a long-term planning is done for procurement of equipment, which is a "slow process" and doesn't happen overnight.
He shared that the Army has a '30-40-30' norm, which means, "30 per cent of the equipment in the inventory are those which are getting obsolete, 40 are the current ones and the rest 30 are the modern ones".
Army's effort is to ensure that the weapons getting obsolete remain on the lower side compared to modern weapons.