History merged with modernity on the deck of India’s stealth frigate INS Tarkash as top naval personnel, navy historians and others came together to celebrate 200 years of an iconic Mumbai-made vessel and annual exercises between the Royal Navy and Indian Navy.
Packed with weapons, sensors and a crew of more than 200, INS Tarkash arrived in the UK to join an exercise with the Royal Navy named Konkan-17. It left London on Wednesday for Lisbon, from where it was due to travel to Africa before returning to India.
Closely involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia in recent years, INS Tarkash participated in an anti-hijack operation off Yemen on April 9 while on its way to Europe. It was also part of Operation Rahat in 2015, when it rescued 538 people from 18 countries from war-torn Yemen.
The Indian flag fluttered against a skyline of skyscrapers at West India Docks in Canary Wharf on Tuesday as defence secretary Michael Fallon, Royal Navy chief Admiral Philip Jones, Indian high commissioner YK Sinha and INS Tarkash’s captain Rituraj Sahu celebrated deep naval ties between the two countries.
They were joined by navy historian Andrew Lambert and others to celebrate 200 years of HMS Trincomalee, the oldest warship afloat anywhere in the world that is currently docked at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool, Durham, 420 km north of London.
HMS Trincomalee, one of the Leda-class sailing frigates built at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, was launched in 1817 after a three-year construction supervised by Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia at Wadia Shipyards in colonial Bombay.
Euan Houstoun, a descendant of Wallace Houstoun who captained the vessel in the Pacific from 1852 to 1857 and the president of the HMS Trincomalee Trust, recalled its history and exploits over the centuries, and said it was an “invaluable link” with India.
Karan Bilimoria, member of the House of Lords, recalled the Parsi community’s contribution to ship-building in India, while Vada Dasturji Khursheed Dastur, high priest of the Zoroastrian temple in Udavada, Gujarat, recited prayers for INS Tarkash and HMS Trincomalee.
The event on the deck of INS Tarkash was attended by several Royal Navy veterans who served on the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which saw action during the Falklands War before it was sold to India to become INS Viraat.
Jones, who attended INS Viraat’s decommissioning in Mumbai in March, said: “It was a fond moment. It meant much to the profession of ship-building in the UK and India."
Cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar was among nearly 2,000 members of the Indian community who visited INS Tarkash during its stay in London.
The joint exercise Konkan-17 was conducted during May 2-6. The harbour phase was conducted at Plymouth from May 2 to 4, followed by the sea phase over the next two days. INS Tarkash was joined by HMS Richmond and other warships.
Sahu said: “Several joint exercises and manoeuvres, including exchange of Sea Riders personnel, were undertaken. We had interaction to promote cooperation and shared exchange on operations, including disaster management, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy.”