Prime Minister Narendra Modi's participation in the Navy Day celebrations at Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, on Monday marked a significant event. He invoked the legacy of Shivaji Maharaj, highlighting the Sindhudurg fort's importance and Shivaji's foresight in recognising naval capabilities.
He paid tributes to warriors like Kanhoji Angre, Mayaji Naik Bhatkar, and Hiroji Indulkar, acknowledging their enduring inspiration. Buoyed by Shivaji’s ideals, he announced that the Navy would align its ranks with Indian traditions, fostering pride in heritage.
Reflecting on India's rich history, he underscored victories, courage, knowledge, science, art, and maritime capabilities. Calling the present era transformative, he outlined India's economic rise and global influence. Modi envisioned India as a 'Vishwa Mitra' (friend of the world) and highlighted initiatives like the India Middle East European Corridor.
There is no doubt that India was once a great maritime power. The National Museum in Delhi has a whole gallery of paintings that depict its maritime tradition. It is also an undeniable fact that over the centuries, the country lost much of its moorings in this regard. Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography gives a graphic account of the problems he faced when he decided to go to England to study law. He was threatened with losing his religion if he crossed the seas.
Wrong to glamorise the past
This injunction against crossing the seas was in force until a few decades ago. It prevented seafarers from exploring and trading across oceans. The gap was filled by the Moors and the Europeans who controlled the seas and enjoyed exclusive zones. While nothing prevents the Prime Minister from making India a great naval power, it would be wrong to glamorise the past to the point of describing many centuries as a period of slavery. Pride should extend beyond specific rulers, as India today is the cumulative result of numerous contributions by countless individuals.