The Indian Navy (IN) celebrates Navy Day on December 4 every year, the date on which, during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, Naval ships armed to the teeth stealthily manoeuvred off Karachi and unleashed a lethal missile attack that left the port ablaze and destroyed several enemy warships. Since that fateful day more than 52 years ago, the Indian Navy today has come of age and has grown in stature to become the fourth-largest Navy in the world.
Over the last year, extensive deployment of Indian Naval ships, submarines, and aircraft has ensured sustained presence in all areas of maritime interest across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond to provide security and safeguard India’s national interests. This near continuous deployment of ships and submarines on ‘Mission Based Deployments’ in coastal and distant waters has been duly supported by extensive surveillance by manned and unmanned aircraft. Indian Navy’s concerted efforts towards Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations or Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) in May 23 from Sudan or in the biggest haul of narcotics ever by a single agency (over 25,000 crores) in the Arabian Sea has been noteworthy and exceptional to say the least. During this period, the Indian Navy has also proved its effectiveness as a flexible instrument of national power, as its warships undertook port calls across the world promoting goodwill and national support. The maiden port call of a submarine in a port in Australia deserves special mention in this context.
Indigenisation efforts leading to an 'Atmanirbhar' Navy
Today, towards meeting the various challenges and threats in the maritime domain, the IN’s perspective planning leans on the complete indigenisation of weapons, systems, sensors, and platforms in all three dimensions. As a matter of fact, the Indian Navy embarked on developing indigenous capability and capacity across the complete spectrum of warship construction, right up to equipment and component level from the late 1950s itself. Thus, during the last few decades, the Navy has rapidly transformed from a Buyer’s Navy to a Builder’s Navy with active participation of the Indian industry.
Further, the design and construction of Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam class destroyers, Shivalik and Niligiri class frigates, Kamorta class anti-submarine corvettes, and Arihant class nuclear submarines are testimony to the Indian Navy’s commitment towards the nation’s resolve for self-reliance and ‘Make in India.’ With the commissioning of Vikrant, India has now also entered a select band of countries having niche capability to design and build an Aircraft Carrier indigenously. As of date, more than 132 warships have been constructed at Indian shipyards, and close to 69 ships and submarines are under construction from public/ private Indian shipyards, which include state-of-the-art 17A stealth frigates. The success of the Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO) and the Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC) has been yet another feather in the Indian Navy’s cap in the last 12 months.
Transformational HR Initiatives
It is also a truism that the Indian Navy can be no better than its officers, sailors and defence civilians. The Navy is aware of this vital link to being a ‘combat ready, credible, cohesive and future proof’ Service. As a ‘Large Navy,’ it has imbibed the necessary organisational transformation to think ‘big’ and ‘beyond’, focusing on ‘outcomes’ in its core professional tasks. Winston Churchill once famously said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” In the last year, the Navy has led a major overhaul of its personnel management system to align processes with ground realities better. The most significant of these changes are the Agnipath scheme, induction of women across all ranks, provisions of ‘Subject Matter Experts’ (SME) for non-empanelled officers, introduction of the 360-appraisal system and revamped orders for rendition of Confidential Reports (CRs), including the introduction of electronic CRs.
Shedding of Colonial Legacy
Another area of focus in the past year has been the shedding of colonial legacy. There is an old African proverb, “Till the lions do not have their own storytellers, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter!” Aligned with the idea of taking pride in our own culture and heritage, the Navy, over the last year, has pursued initiatives to discontinue colonial and archaic practices which do not contribute to the desired end state of being combat-ready. These include changes in several traditions with Colonial underpinnings but no longer relevant in the Indian context, changes to the existing uniforms so as to suit our weather conditions, changes to rank nomenclature so as to sound more functional etc. The underlying rationale of all these measures has been to instill a sense of pride within the Service and celebrate our organic traditions and ethos.
Finally! To conclude, as the Indian Navy navigates through the ever-changing geopolitical flux, the ever-evolving maritime challenges, and the changes within, such as the induction of Agniveers, it led through all these with exemplary leadership to ensure that the Service is ready in all respects to face challenge with josh and elan. This December 4, as we celebrate Navy Day, the men and women in white uniform proudly re-dedicate themselves to our mother-land and assure the nation and its citizens that the Indian Navy is ever-ready to execute all kinds of operations in the maritime domain as we all march together toward achieving our national objectives and interests.
Captain Sachin Dhir is Naval Assistant to Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command