Indian Navy –– Coming of Age –– Silently  

An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 27 July 2003

In one month the Indian Navy has chalked up many “sea milestones” for the Nation all over the world, and Indians can be proud of their men in white who were showing the National Flag literally around the globe. Their actions need to be recorded.

Unfortunately the Navy was also in the news for different reasons. A 7.62mm pistol that Gen Niazi was supposed to have presented to late Vice Admiral Nilakantan Krishnan at the Pakistani surrender ceremony at Dhaka in 1971, was mysteriously found to be missing from its secure case in the Maritime section of the National Museum in New Delhi in broad daylight. This event grabbed the headlines, and put the Navy brass on guard. News hounds penned away copies on that ubiquitous pistol and its twin, kept in the Indian Military Academy. In any case since the Navy is not wont to tom tom its achievements like others do, (the Sarp Vinash operation being a recent example for controversy), momentous Indian naval happenings all over the world got glossed over. Most naval activities take place at sea or abroad, away from the gaze of its own people; so good Navies live by the motto “run silent, run deep”.

The Russians turned over two spanking new 4000-ton torpedo destroyers –– INS Talwar (F 40) and Trishul (F 41) to the Indian Navy in end June. These ships are fitted out with 16 Vertical firing Klub missiles for sea and land attack roles (like Tomahawks) with ranges of 300 km and the fire and forget” Air Defence Shtil AA system with ranges of over 20 km backed by the Kashtan rapid firing short range AK 630 guns and nine M3 missiles capable of shooting down incoming supersonic missiles. The ships were commissioned at the famous Baltiysky yard at St Petersburg. In 1998 this ship yard commissioned the nuclear powered missile cruiser Pytor Velikiy , the pride of the Russian Navy, and our officers had a free run of that modern shipyard. These Krivack class ships specially designed for the IN are also equipped with KA 31 AEW helicopters, Indian DRDO sonars and many Indian systems and equipment.

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Madhvendra Singh accepted the INS Talwar on 18th June         in the presence of Admiral Kyrodev, CNS of the Russian Navy and it must have been nostalgic for Madhvendra Singh. As a Commander he had commanded the earlier British supplied Type 12 ship of the same name from 1979–80. Defence Minister George Fernandes was slated to commission the INS Trishul on 25th June, but Vice Admiral Arun Prakash stood in for him and both ships are presently on passage to join the Western Fleet at Mumbai.

INS Talwar docked at Porstmouth on 4th July for four days and evinced more than normal interest. INS Talwar will arrive India via the Mediterranean showing the Flag at Toulon and other ports. INS Trishul is also on home passage via the Cape of Good Hope, showing India’s tricolour in ports along the way. The MEA must have realized that much goodwill and bonhomie accrues when Naval ships visit friendly countries, and with better availability of funds the MEA are now more supportive of the Indian Navy. The cost effectiveness of the diplomacy the Navy offers by port calls, is now grasped better. Indian Navy also exercises with Navies along the way, as the earlier restrictions of non alignment are not that vocal.

In another far off area INS Tarangini Indian Navy’s sail training ship on a round-the-world training cruise made a mark in New York in end May. The ship was berthed in Manhattan next to the USS Intrepid and those who visited the ship and sipped the Indian “chai or tasted the Biryani”, are still full of her call during the American Fleet Week, when Americans honour their Navy and host visiting Navies. New York goes over board and restaurants, bars and Broadway shows offer reduced rates and even freebees to sailors in uniform and Tarangini had a taste of New York’s         hospitality to the men in white.

The ship’s crew included two women officers and that is the new face of changing India that they portrayed. More recently on 27th June INS Tarangini had the privilege to sail from Hamilton to Toronto with CNS Admiral Madhvendra Singh and India’s High Commissioner to Canada embarked. Tarangini is at present taking part in the American Tall Ship races in the Great Lakes. Some 200 cadets and officers will be trained on board during the year. Such International exposure for any Navy holds the experience they gain in good stead.

On another diplomatic mission INS Ranjit a powerful Kashin class destroyer proceeded to Mozambique with INS Suvarna an OPV, and on 25th June attended the 28th Independence Anniversary celebrations of that country and presented medicines to the Vice Minister of Health of Mozambique on board Suvarna. At the request of the President Mr Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique who boarded the ships on 30th June, the IN ships will remain in the area to provide cover for the African Heads of States Union being held from 4th to 12th July. They will also train the Mozambique Navy and weave bonds of friendship during their stay.

In another seamark, HMS Liverpool, a guided missile destroyer and RFA Grey Rover, a replenishment ship of the Royal Navy made port calls to Port Blair in the Andamans from 4th July after participating in exercise Flying Fish in the South China Sea with the other members of the Five Power Defence Arrangement. The visit will mark the first ever Royal Navy visit to the Andamans. The US Navy with USS Curtis and PC3 Orions began a Search and Recue exercise off Chennai with INS Sukhanya and a Coast Guard ship on 6th July, while in the same area in the Bay of Bengal four units of the Western Fleet from Mumbai were all set to conduct Summerex with the combined Fleets and the other services.

The Indian Navy has certainly come of age and its role in peacetime deserves the support and understanding of the nation. It is not just the old cliché of ‘a girl in every port’, but ‘friends in all nations’ that now applies. The Laws of the Freedom of the Seas allows Navies tremendous leeway and the Indian Navy now has the resources to contribute to India’s diplomacy in more ways than one.

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