Lieutenant Colonel Sophia Qureshi has become the first woman officer to lead an Indian Army contingent at a multi-national military exercise. Named ‘Exercise Force 18’, this is the largest ever foreign military exercise hosted by India, and Lt Col Sophia Qureshi is the only woman leader amongst the 18 participating contingents. The Field Training Exercise started in Pune on March 2 and will continue till March 8. The Indian contingent, which will play a key role in the training with other troops in Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) and Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA), has 40 members.
“On these missions, we monitor the ceasefires in those countries and also aid in the humanitarian activities. The job is to ensure peace in the conflict affected areas,” Sophia Qureshi told The Indian Express while talking about the role of peacekeeping missions in conflict areas around the world.
Here are five things to know about her:
1. 35-year-old Sophia Qureshi was selected from a pool of peacekeeping trainers to lead this contingent.
2. Presently, she is an officer from the Corps of Signals of the Indian Army.
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3. In 2006, she served in United Nations Peacekeeping Operation in Congo and has been associated with PKOs for the last six years.
4. She hails from Gujarat and holds a post-graduate degree in bio-chemistry.
5. Her grandfather was in the Army and she is married to an Army officer from Mechanised Infantry.
Members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), including India, Japan, Korea, China, Russia, United States, Australia, and New Zealand are participating in the exercise. The opening ceremony was held at Aundh Military Station.
“In the Army, we believe in equal opportunity and equal responsibility. In the Army, there is no difference between male and female officers. She has been picked not because she is a woman but as she has the abilities and leadership qualities to shoulder the responsibility,” said Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, Army Commander of Pune based Southern Command.