The Indian Navy (IN) celebrates Navy Day on December 4 every year. On this date, 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. 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 and beyond to provide security and safeguard India’s national interests.
Concerted efforts towards Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief or Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations in May this year from Sudan, or in the biggest haul of narcotics ever by a single agency (over Rs25,000 crore) in the Arabian Sea, have 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. The maiden port call of a submarine in a port in Australia deserves special mention.
Today, towards meeting the various challenges and threats in the maritime domain, the IN’s perspective planning leans on complete indigenisation of weapons, systems, sensors, and platforms in all three dimensions. As a matter of fact, the IN 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. In the last few decades, it 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 Visakhapatnam class destroyers, Shivalik and Nilgiri class frigates, Kamorta class anti-submarine corvettes, and Arihant class nuclear submarines are testimony to the IN’s commitment towards the nation’s resolve for self reliance and ‘Make in India.’
India's Majestic Naval Strength
With the commissioning of Vikrant, India has now also entered a select band of countries with 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 and the Technology Development Acceleration Cell has been yet another feather in the IN’s cap this year.
It is also a truism that the IN can be no better than its officers, sailors and defence civilians. Winston Churchill once famously said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” In the last year, the IN 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’ 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.
Another area of focus has been the shedding of colonial legacy. An old African proverb goes, “Till the lions do not have their own storytellers, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter!” Aligned with taking pride in our own culture and heritage, the Navy 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 to suit our weather conditions, changes to rank nomenclature to sound more functional, etc. The underlying rationale has been to instil a sense of pride and celebrate our organic traditions and ethos.
As the IN navigates through the ever-changing geopolitical flux, the everevolving 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 challenges with josh and élan.
The author is Naval Assistant to Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command