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Growth pains of an expanding Navy

chandigarh Updated: Mar 02, 2014 09:38 IST
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Admiral DK Joshi has put in his papers in the best traditions of the Services, taking moral responsibility for a series of accidents affecting warships at sea and in harbour. This is an act of the highest honour and worthy of the greatest praise from all of us. These accidents have caused a tremendous uproar and raised a lot of questions about naval ships’ seaworthiness, maintenance and the competence of crews not to speak of leadership both at the middle and senior levels.

Recently two Commanding Officers of ships involved in accidents had been removed from command. Fresh mishaps would have meant that more Captains would’ve been punished for culpability. In the absence of action against senior commanders who should take moral responsibility this would’ve resulted in a loss of morale among lower ranks. Rather than sacking, posting out or upbraiding CinCs of Commands and fleet commanders the Chief of Naval Staff took the whole blame upon himself so as to say and resigned.

The Navy has in recent decades undertaken a high profile expansion programme aimed at capacity building to become a true blue water force capable of defending India’s sea lanes of communication and denying the same to enemies. Unfortunately, the additional manpower required to keep pace with the growth has not been sanctioned. The Navy also seems to have been burdened with far too many commitments- coastal security in the wake of 26/11, naval diplomacy in the form of alliance-building exercises with other nations’ navies and antipiracy operations. All very necessary keeping in view threat perceptions and our own economic and military ambitions but such added deployments do not make the job of building an ocean-going maritime force any easier.


Ex-servicemen celebrated the grant of their long-standing demand for OROP with their usual élan by organising a traditional Barakhana at Chandigarh last Monday albeit with a partisan political tinge. Rahul Gandhi was there to interact with them which he did with aplomb. In my opinion such interface between political leaders and veterans in the right setting is very necessary. The military have never let down their political masters not even as veterans.

Whether defending the nation, engagement in internal security or even providing aid in times of natural disasters the armed forces have always given of their best. Similarly, the veterans have not only taken a full part in nation-building but while articulating their grievances refrained from destructive agitations. The political class cutting across parties have not been as sensitive to the just requirements of military personnel and veterans. This must end and last Monday’s intercommunication between the two and Mr Gandhi’s assurances were happy auguries for a better future.


Everyone interested in military history as well as the descendants of soldiers who fought in the conflict must attend the India and the Great War Conference being held at the USI, New Delhi on March 5-7. The flagship event being addressed by international and indigenous scholars will kick off the national commemoration of India’s role in the war. I’m seeking to meet descendants of First World War veterans. Please write to