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Exploring Unsung Frames in Indian Maritime History

Dr Soni Wadhwa



Maritime History Society organised the first ever National Maritime Heritage Conclave on 18-19 November 2020 in collaboration with Gujarat Maritime University as the Academic Partner, The Daily Guardian as Media Partner and All India Marine Pilots Association as Professional Partner. Streamed on the digital media it drew a significant online attendance across sessions. As already mentioned in these columns the theme of the Conclave was Unsung Frames in Indian Maritime History. 

In his welcome address, Cmde Odakkal Johnson, Director MHS stressed the need, importance and motivation for maritime consciousness across multiple frames. Vice Adm RB Pandit, Chief of Staff, Western Naval Command and Chairman of Maritime History Society, in the inaugural address pointed out that the maritime history of India deserves the attention of both young and veteran scholars. Going deeper into the theme of the Conclave, he highlighted that the maritime medium remains a mystery due to our ignorance which can be overcome by digging deeper and exploring topics such as the unsung frames of the coastal communities and the contribution of women in the Indian maritime history. He reiterated the need to address a gap in our maritime history and heritage for which the eminent and young scholars must come together and be involved in a copious discourse. With reference to the coastal communities, he observed that the sea facing communities in our country have proven to be extremely helpful as they offer aid and assistance to the Indian Navy in times of disasters and catastrophes.

Need to Demystify the Sea.
Coastal Communities.
Sagara : Tribute to Malams.

Prof (Dr) S Shanthakumar, Director-in-charge of Gujarat Maritime University spoke about the sorry state of representation of women in maritime professions. He said, “In spite of advances in science and technology and in spite of Socio cultural economic developments happening globally, It is extremely disappointing to learn that Maritime sector have been uniquely affected by gender biases over the years. Though historically women have played an important role in advancing a number of issues central to ocean governance as understood today Whether in the context of industrial and small-scale fisheries, or aboard ships and vessels, the gendered life worlds of marine-based societies, have been amply documented, particularly in terms of how sailing, surfing, maritime navigation, and other forms of seafaring have historically been perceived as distinctly “masculinized” practices.”

Prof (Dr) Vasant Shinde, Founding Director-General of the National Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal delivered the keynote address. He delved into the Harappan civilisation and the later period to talk about evidence of different phases of urbanisation and their connection with the maritime identity of the nation. Arguably, civilisations and coastlines are interconnected and it is now that the Government of India is working towards the preserving the traces of these maritime connections by celebrating its history of maritime trade and contact with the rest of the world with initiatives like the National Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal. Indeed, the deeper we explore, the more examples we find of unsung frames in Indian maritime history.

The objectives of the conclave were to stimulate discussions on the under explored dimensions of Indian maritime history, especially coastal communities and the role of women in the Indian maritime past and present. It is hoped that thoughts from the various sessions would become starting points for further research in maritime history with coastal communities and women as foci, which would, in turn, influence policy on development, tourism and climate change. The conclave was an attempt towards articulating thoughts and ideas about communities living on the coastline and about women who have contributed to Indian naval power and maritime influences historically and in the present. 

Scholars talking about the coastal communities at the Conclave highlighted the significance of turning to the communities living, currently or previously, on the coastline of India. Dr Radhika Seshan began by setting the theme of the session by raising the question about what the term coastal communities means. Does it refer to those communities that are engaged in fishing? Citing the example of the very famous Koli community of the Maharashtra coast, she highlighted that the Kolis are the only littoral communities that people in general know about. She insisted that the study of coastal communities should involve all more communities: those involved in agriculture too in coastal terrains. 

Prof Ranabir Chakravarti, a renowned maritime historian explained the role of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta which is the world’s largest delta region that comprises modern Tripura, West Bengal and Bangladesh in fostering human engagement with the seas and the hinterlands. Prof Ranabir Chakravarti touched upon the influence of the sea on the coastal heritage of Bengal. He spoke about fascinating examples of the influence of the delta on the culture – an example includes the music of SD Burman. He spoke about the role of coastal communities from the earliest days up until the late medieval times. He pointed out that although in early Indian Sanskrit  literature the coastal communities do not figure significantly, references to Navikas and Mahanavikas are scattered all across early Indian literary genres. These communities from the area may have been quite affluent too as can be deduced from the study an inscription of a Bengali Mahanavika of Raktamrittika named Buddhagupta found in Malaysia. The delta as a coastal zone fostered a generation of communities that contributed immensely in the history of South Asia.

Cdr Kalesh Mohanan spoke about the specificity of the communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as island communities – an apt way of reminding his fellow scholars that no two communities are the same and that the expression “coastal communities” is not enough to talk about the unsung frame of communities that the session was dedicated to. Cdr Mohanan shed light on the nature of these coastal communities as opposed to those from the mainland. The islanders of the Andaman were cocooned from the world at large and this has made them culturally and racially distinct from the mainlanders. Leora Pezarkar discussed her work on the Bene Israeli community and their way of life. She spoke about the identity  and the lifestyle of her community which identifies itself as littoral. She also pointed out that the community adapted to the local customs while also retaining their very idiosyncratic Jewish tradition. 

Dr Andre Baptista presented an example of the way the East Indian community helped in excavating an area on the Konkan coast. He drew attention to the immense possibility of educating the coastal communities and enlisting their support in archaeological and conservation projects. Speaking of the Konkan coast exploration, Dr Andre Baptista made a case for the need to work towards the inclusion of the local coastal communities in the matters pertaining to their heritage. Dennard D’Souza underlined the fact that with the homogenisation of all cultures, the uniqueness as well as the diversity of the peoples living on the coasts are fast eroding. He shared his journey while researching the coastal communities of Ratnagiri. According to him the ancient literary sources were virtually mute on the communities of the western coast, which was pulsating with activity. 

In tribute to the unsung craft and skill of boat builders and boatmen along the coast the conclave had a special audio-visual rendition. Titled, “Sagara” it integrated classic seafaring beauty in three elements. These were maritime emotion in writing, captivating voice of Riddhi Joshi and time-laps doodle by Prathamesh Sawant into an amazing song!

Our vision at the Maritime History Society is to evolve into a body of eminence in the field of maritime history through nurturing of historical research among young mariners and to showcase Indian maritime heritage through the publication of emerging perspectives for a vibrant and resurgent maritime India. Moving ahead towards this vision, a session basedon the theme “Women in the Indian Maritime History” was organised. 

In the session on women in the Indian maritime history, Lt Cdr Rajeshwari Kori, Reshma Nilofer and Sucheta Jadhav spoke about the experience of being at sea as women. The three women spoke about their journey as professionals and left us with thoughts about: what can we do to make our shipping and naval environments inclusive? Is gender parity so difficult to achieve in the 21st century? What can we learn from these women to make more women feel welcomed into the maritime domain? What can we do to inspire more women to join the maritime professions as entrepreneurs, pilots, and naval personnel in several capacities? Like all elements of nature, the seas do not discriminate in terms of gender. We need to take a closer look at the power structures created around the access to the sea and its resources. The three practitioners shared their personal experiences and gave us a glimpse into their journeys. They put forth their stories across in a disarmingly simple way. they made their journey very down-to-earth. Lt Cdr Kori said that she heard Late Vice Adm MP Awati talk about the navy and the defence forces and she got inspired to join the Indian Navy. Ms Jadhav observed that seamanship has got nothing to do with gender. In her words, it does not have anything to do with age either!  Reshma Nilofer again made her journey sound very simple – she saw that no woman was doing much in terms of piloting. She thought someone should start and decided that she should start herself. These stories showcased the simpler side of the journey, drawing the attention to enjoyment, interest, and passion.

Women in Maritime History.
Trans-Oceanic Connectivity.

Women have proved to be avid warriors and brilliant administrators while securing a place in history, be it in fields of warfare, politics, art, literature and business among others. Across time, we have seen women be a part of the social, educational and humanitarian circle in society contributing immensely to every field. The Maritime medium or the sea doesn’t see gender. A number of women have proved themselves in the field of shipping, warfare, aviation and sailing among other fields within the maritime domain. This session thus looks into the contribution of women in the maritime field. We have with us three eminent speakers whose sheer love and dedication for the field has brought them with us today. 

Women in the maritime history of other countries and locations are rare to find. Internationally speaking, the women one hears of is Englishwoman Janet Taylor. Taylor is known for adjusting calculations to identify locations realising that the earth is spheroidal, not spherical. She went on to teach navigation, wrote a lot of books and developed a lot of nautical instruments. Women like the Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, known for her exploration of Algeria, and closer home Rani Abakka and the Pepper Queen Keladi Chennamma are known for having the maritime vision for resisting the influence of the Portuguese. In the modern period of Indian history, we hear of the women’s wing of the Royal Indian Navy, the WRIN. The session examined the ascendancy of women back in history who set a benchmark in the field of shipping and entrepreneurship extensively highlighting the work and contribution of Sumati Morarjee.

Like the other maritime fields, shipping too has predominantly been a male profession. Poorvi Shriyan, Adjunct Research Associate and Amruta Talawadekar, Research Associate at Maritime History Society, spoke about legendary women in Indian maritime history. The former spoke about Queen Abbakka and the latter about women in WRIN (Women’s Royal Indian Navy) and Shrimati Sumati Morarjee, who set a new benchmark in the field of entrepreneurship. Her journey from an ordinary woman to the Executive Director of Scindia Steam Navigation Company Ltd, the biggest Indian Shipping company in the private sector in India is an example of her strength, will and foresight.

Historically, defence was a male dominated field till the twentieth century. India was by then under the British rule and was part of the Queen’s provinces. The maritime security was under the Royal Indian Navy. During World War II, the Royal Indian Navy began inducting Indians including women to fill up shore jobs. The Women’s Auxiliary Corps (India) was set up in April 1942. Subsequently the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service that was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps was set up in Feb 1944. This became a symbol of the new era and a pioneering step for women aspiring to be in the defence field. 

The session constructively highlighted and envisaged on navigating the role of women in Indian Navy in the 21st Century. Capt. Radhika Menon became the first Indian female captain of a Merchant Navy ship. She led a dangerous mission rescuing seven fishermen who were trapped at the Bay of Bengal in a sinking boat which capsized due to engine failure and breakdown of the boat’s anchor as a result of a sea storm in 2015. With her spirit, dedication and courage she was a proud recipient of the top international bravery award by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2016. In 2017, the Indian Coast Guard became the first Indian force to have inducted women officers for combat and patrolling roles onboard KV Kuber. 

In 2018, six women officers led by Lt Cdr Vartika Joshi successfully circumnavigated around the globe in a sailboat. They displayed their sheer passion, perseverance and unrelenting spirit towards the sea on their 254-day long voyage facing the rough seas, scorching sun and freezing winds. Their boat was named as Tarini or the saving goddess. Sub Lt. Riti Singhand Lt. Kumudini Tyagibecame one of the first women to have joined as an ‘Observer’ (Airborne Tactician) in the Indian Navy’s helicopter stream. Earlier, the entry of women was restricted to the fixed-wing aircraft that took off and landed ashore. In 2019, Sub. Lt. Shubhangi Swaroop was part of the first batch of women pilots inducted in the Indian Navy.

Maritime travel and commerce have conventionally been understood to the primordial connection that human civilisation has had with the oceanic expanses on the planet. Cmde Ajay Agarwal’s study of the dhows sailing between the Gulf of Kachchh and the Persian Gulf reiterated the history of the sailing and trading connection between India and several coasts on the west. The Bhadalas and the Kharvas have been impacted as a result of the sanctions by the United Nations on Iraq in the 1990s. The chain of events and their consequences are a lot more complex than this summary but the key takeaway is that the larger geopolitical contexts have fostered networks and relationships that pan out in smaller narratives. We are yet to see how transoceanic connections are yet to pan out in our times. 

The trade connections belonging to the past have consequences for claims in the present times. The new regionalism perspective presented by Cmde Sanjay D’Cunha focused on the way power politics continues to unravel in the Indian Ocean Region today. His analysis calls for a relook at the support being extended to Project Mausam, a crucial initiative towards the display of India’s historical presence in the Indian Ocean.

While the previous papers talked about the movement of goods, the India-Africa connection highlighted by Aishwarya Devasthali was one instance of talking about movement of people. The presence of the Siddis in the Indian soil can be appreciated from the instances of built heritage they have left behind – the fort of Janjira, the Kokari tombs, and the coins minted under the dominion of the Siddis are examples of the exchange that has materialised over centuries, if not millennia. Thus, there is a need to study the archaeological evidence from the perspective of the communities that have moved across the ocean.

We hope that this national maritime heritage conclave has been able to do its small bit to shape the direction maritime history, as a discipline, in India must consider taking so that it may include areas neglected previously. We shall continue to address many more unsung frames in our research projects and our upcoming initiatives. 

Steering away from traditional narratives is important to gain a holistic understanding of our past. And that is exactly what Maritime History Society set out to do with this National Maritime Heritage Conclave. Historical discourse on a niche topic as Maritime History will open up new interpretations and new learning in the way we have been looking at our history. For a better appreciation of the traditions, heritage and cultural practices of coastal communities and seafaring groups of India, it is important to know their history and develop the historiography that will aid in a better understanding of the communities. Connectivity via the sea with the rest of the world, historically, brought in extended commercial and cultural links with the world. India, especially the coastal belts and the riverine valleys have been a melting pot of culture due to such connectivity that resulted into flourishing.

The discussions in the session on women made it clear, age and gender are social constructs that can be and have been defied by women proving that the chauvinism in the field of seafaring should be kept at bay. The maritime domain is multidimensional. It has the onus of contributing trajectories for a wide connection with its ability for displacement of ships and boats, by the possibility of intermingling of people, as carrier of ideas and assimilator of culture. These are the key take aways from the programme that spanned two days but the substance of which has spanned millennia.

Do continue to support such initiatives by Maritime History Society. The Support page on the website lets anyone and everyone express solidarity with the cause of the awakening Indians’ maritime consciousness through heritage. We have several such programmes to organise to reach the public. We have several research projects to undertake, more narratives to uncover, and more museum and heritage spaces to create. Come, make a difference.

Dr Soni Wadhwa is Joint Director (Research) at Maritime History Research.

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Ashish Singh



Barry O’ Farrell AO, High Commissioner of Australia, accompanied by Sarah Roberts, acting Consul General, Consulate of Australia, Mumbai, and a three-member delegation called on Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, on Monday. The High Commissioner interacted with the Admiral and exchanged views on various issues of common interest such as Bilateral Cooperation in Defence and Security, Strategic Partnership and shared maritime interests as Indian Ocean littoral States. The High Commissioner also visited the Aircraft Carrier Dock at the Western Naval Command.

The High Commissioner’s visit was significant as it coincided with the recently concluded Quad exercise MALABAR 2020 in which India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. participated. HMAS Ballarat, a frigate of Royal Australian Navy represented Australia in both the phases of Malabar 20 and had spent some time at Goa port for its operational turnaround from 10 – 13 Nov 20. The current visit by the High Commissioner is in accordance with the good relations enjoyed by both the Commonwealth nations and is expected to further strengthen the existing bonds between both the navies.

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Ashish Singh



At approximately 10 am on Monday, Indian Army successfully test-fired a BrahMos Land Attack Cruise Missile using a Mobile Autonomous Launcher (MAL) from Car Nicobar Islands against a designated target located at a range of approximately 200 km in Bay of Bengal. During this successful test launch, the missile demonstrated the weapon’s unmatched lethal ability and formidable precision strike capability.

BrahMos missile system, an Indo- Russian joint venture is the most lethal and potent weapon system available with the Indian Army for precision strike. The land attack version of BrahMos with capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach speed, is cutting edge of the Indian Army since 2007. The present Block III version of the missile has successfully executed four operational launches in the past. With the upgraded capability the missile can hit targets at a range of upto 400 Km with precision. The launch marks the achievement of a critical milestone in enhancing India’s capability of engaging enemy’s vitally important targets in depth areas. The launch was witnessed by various dignitaries who lauded the commendable effort demonstrated during the successful execution of the launch.

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Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators.

Ashish Singh



World has been facing the most challenging medical emergency in last one century since December 2019 causing deaths in millions. This time it is due to a well concealed pandemic by inimical forces of humanity and treacherous intentions beyond comprehension. Historically on occurrence of crime, motive is the first and foremost thing to be investigated and most important clue is revealed by singling out the beneficiary. Evident motive in the present case of worldwide pandemic unleashed is to damage world economy, stemming the increasing influence of western culture by discrediting it and above all breaking the morale of developed nations by manipulating world organizations. It is quite obvious that a new world order is desired to be set. Wrongdoer was well aware that the collateral damages would be deaths in millions, discrediting of world leaders and dislocated governing bodies. In fact, the perpetrator must be overjoyed to have achieved more than what it had planned for however, it has also revealed itself in this act of treachery towards humanity. Nations of the world surely are not going to watch it go helplessly.

There are many pertinent questions to be asked such as; was the virus developed in a lab, was it allowed to escape, was it allowed to be sent worldwide? The leading world body being compromised what is the authenticity of the findings given by the investigating teams? It is difficult to believe that any punitive actions would be taken against the offender in a comprehensive manner to punish him as those actions would again be a violation of basic human rights and against the democratic values which the majority of the world players presently support. All this can happen only after the world is sufficiently assured of the correctness of judgment and identification of the guilty. Given all these there would still be a need for justice to the world humanity and human cause. Answer for destruction cannot be even more destruction however, suitable steps must be taken to make the culprit realize the futility of such covert and inhuman acts.

World at this juncture must address the much larger issue of the way forward for the humanity and world peace. They had come together earlier after WW I with formation of League of Nations and after WW II created United Nations just to ensure peaceful world and a better future for humankind. Anybody reading the preamble of United Nations would even today wonder how to improve upon it as it already has all the ingredients that are desired for world peace and harmony. Happenings after WW II has been well documented and we must contemplate a repeat.

Forty-six nations, including the four sponsors, were originally invited to the San Francisco Conference: nations which had declared war on Germany and Japan and had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration. There were 850 delegates, and their advisers and staff together with the conference secretariat brought the total to 3,500. There were only ten plenary meetings of all the delegates but nearly 400 meetings of the committees at which every line and comma was hammered out.

There was also considerable debate on the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and the conference decided that member nations would not be compelled to accept the Court’s jurisdiction but might voluntarily declare their acceptance of compulsory jurisdiction. Likewise, the question of future amendments to the Charter received much attention and finally resulted in an agreed solution. Above all, the right of each of the “Big Five” to exercise a “veto” on action by the powerful Security Council provoked long and heated debate. The smaller powers feared that when one of the “Big Five” menaced the peace, the Security Council would be powerless to act, while in the event of a clash between two powers not permanent members of the Security Council, the “Big Five” could act arbitrarily. But the great powers unanimously insisted on this provision as vital, and emphasized that the main responsibility for maintaining world peace would fall most heavily on them. Eventually the smaller powers conceded the point in the interest of setting up the world organization.

“The Charter of the United Nations which you have just signed,” said President Truman in addressing the final session “is a solid structure upon which we can build a better world. History will honor you for it. With this Charter the world can begin to look forward to the time when all worthy human beings may be permitted to live decently as free people. If we fail to use it” he concluded, “we shall betray all those who have died so that we might meet here in freedom and safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly – for the advantage of any one nation or any small group of nations — we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal.”

On October 24, 1945 Charter came into force when the Governments of China, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States and a majority of the other signatory states ratified it and deposited notification to this effect with the State Department of the United States then the United Nations came into existence.” (Excerpt from

So, what led us as nations to violate the basic intent of collective resolve undertaken in 1945? Is it blatant disregard for rules or desire for growth or seeking better future for own people or jealousy or simply dominance? What did we overlook while finalizing the Charter? Causes of our collective failure lies in basic nature of human’s struggle to achieve equality. Equality of knowledge, wealth, status and every aspect of human life is a must to create a harmonious and peaceful co-existence. Non agreement on universal applicability of ICJ judgments and allowing veto powers to big five are the two major reasons which caused failure of the world body to prevent wars and manmade calamities. World thereafter witnessed numerous skirmishes, wars, long drawn out cold war, nations breaking up, meddling in others affairs with impunity and many more actions by signatory nations that were in violation to the spirit of UN Charter. One good thing that occurred during the meetings was agreement to carry out future amendments to UN Charter as and when felt necessary.

Making a rule or law with agreement of all is the first step to have acknowledged the problem and need for correction. However, more important are constantly making amendments in the law as per changing times, effective monitoring by unbiased body, strict implementation to ensure timely justice and punitive punishments to violators. Struggle would always be there between pure and the evil; the way forward should be to restrict, reduce and finally eradicate evil to diminish and eventually eliminate sufferings. Same struggle can be identified among the human race with religion to search for something pure which would eradicate all distress. World effort should be to establish such Charter that wipes out agony and replaces it with peace for the human race in this world. World after recovering from this artificial calamity must resort to rebuilding and restructuring the architecture of the world body. World certainly needs a new order today to ensure peace and alleviation of affliction of the human race.

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Resetting India -Nepal relations needed to offset Chinese threats

Mukesh Ambani has added a feather to India’s cap by figuring among the richest in the world.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) & Brig Narender Kumar (Retd)



No bilateral relations between nations can be built on sentiment—whether it is based on faith, ideology or inheritance. Only those rooted in shared interests will endure. Relations will not remain everlasting if the interests of the people and nations are not renegotiated. The relations with Nepal were driven for long on shared culture, religion and geographical realities. The problem thus far has been a sense of “everlasting friendship” between India and Nepal without incorporating suitable changes to the historical treaties to accommodate new political, social and economic realities. The border dispute is a manifestation of multiple factors including new found competitive nationalism among the political parties of Nepal, structural changes unfolding in the external and internal context of the bilateral relationship and Nepal asserting strategic autonomy to renegotiate the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship. New political elites of Nepal feel that relations with India cannot be frozen in time due to a treaty that has lived its utility.

When the founder of the modern Nepali state, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described Nepal as a “yam between two rocks”, he in fact hinted at the geo-strategic significance of Nepal and need for maintaining strategic autonomy and neutrality with India and China. In order to look ahead and repair, revise and revive the bilateral relationship, India must first understand why and how the territorial dispute has flared up. It may be tempting to start on a clean slate, but future visions will remain void if both sides don’t learn from past mistakes.


Nepal’s claim of approximately 372 sq km of Indian Territory in Kalapani area has caused considerable fissures in bilateral relations between the two countries. Kalapani issue has become a huge rallying point amongst the opposition parties in Nepal and it is now very difficult for the Nepalese Government or even the opposition parties to back off from their claim. It came at a time when India was engaged with China in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control. It gave new lease of life to the current Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and he rode the competitive nationalism to tide over the current political crisis. The claim and subsequent issue of map has given birth to a permanent and long-term territorial dispute that is difficult to resolve and thus creating a conflict trap that will keep rising whenever the relations between two states take a turn to the South. Till now the political leadership of both countries were keeping this conflict under wraps, but now it has been unleashed and will remain on the prowl till a mechanism is worked out to set this conflict to rest. 

The question comes up, could India prevent the constitutional amendment of the map if Indian government had kept their ears to the ground? It is difficult to answer in “yes or no” but the fact of the matter is that India needs to have a new road map to engage with Nepal post changed political realities in Nepal. To control the damage, Nepalese leadership should ensure that Nationalism is not distorted to an anti-Indian feeling. Because that will narrow down the options to resolve this dispute in future. Let this dispute not become a pivot for China to exploit Nepalese sentiment.


If the relations are not reset and Nepal continues to drift away, it will become a major peril of corridor especially due to China- Pak nexus and manifestation of Three Warfares (3Ws) and Irregular Warfare against India. The open and porous border facilitates an active non-contact warfare by China and Pakistan to destabilise the heartland India. It gives an opportunity to inimical forces to exploit this porous border for smuggling of arms, drugs and fake Indian currency to give impetus to instability and also support Left Wing Extremists who have ideological and organisational linkages with Maoists of Nepal. Dr PV Ramana posits that the Maoist insurgents and PWG have formed the Indo-Nepal Border Regional Committee (INBRC) “to coordinate their activities” in Bihar. The bottom-line is that ideological and organisational linkages do exist and it can be exploited by China by extending material and weapon support to the LWE through Nepalese Maoists. Bigger threat is political and information warfare that can penetrate deep inside India’s heartland. China Study Centers especially along the India- Nepal borders are a greater threat that can cause instability in Gangetic Plains and disrupt East- West strategic lines of communication. Only way this threat can be managed is by restoring ties with Nepal and building resolute military to military relation between two armies.


Nepal has been embracing a policy of strategic diversification to reduce its dependence on India and enhance its non-aligned autonomy. In response India’s perceived economic blockade of 2015 was seen by Nepal as a right to deny and insulate Nepal from the outside world. That had caused major upheaval against India among the Nepalese youth and common citizens. India should consider Nepal as co-equal and develop relations not as a “protectorate but as a partner”. Because strategic space if abdicated by India will be encroached upon by China and that will become difficult for India to reclaim. India cannot blame China’s political interference in Nepal as a major factor for deteriorating relations between the two states. India not paying adequate attention to reset the road map for building relations is also a factor. It is very natural that two neighbours sharing a border of more than 1,800 km are bound to have some differences but these differences should not become disputes or else a third party will take advantage of it.

Both nations today have to realise that apart from the strong historical relations guided by a common culture, religion and similar language is also supported by Geography. The Indian ports and transit access, protected by special trade and transit treaties is a commitment which needs to be honoured by India. Even though China has provided…special trade and transit facilities by way of dry ports and roads, the long distance from the eastern coast of China to Nepal via Tibet, approximately 4000 kms is just not a cost-effective option. Initially China may subsidize services and goods passing through this long corridor as it meets the objectives of Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. However, if Nepal has to take a cue from Sri Lanka’s experience let it be clear that a decade later it is the people of Nepal who will pay the price for their political miscalculation. Many countries in the African continent today are suffering because of the free largess initially offered by China in the form of soft loans for development of infrastructure. Is this the future which Nepal is looking at? According to a report by the Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry of Nepal, China has illegally occupied Nepal’s land in several places spreading over seven bordering districts. Unfortunately the Oli Government has kept silent over this land grab. China believes in debt slavery and Nepal could be forced to surrender its strategic autonomy if it allows China to continue to make economic, political and cultural inroads in Nepal. Though there is a vocal anti-India lobby in Nepal, but the people with this new development along the Northern borders are equally resentful of China.

Nepal shares a long and open border with India the special privileges which are given to all citizens of Nepal are unique. In fact, a citizen of Nepal can work anywhere in India including the Armed forces as well as reside in any part of India. These privileges are not reciprocal for Indian citizens which is quite understandable because of the size of Nepal. Apart from the Army there is a large population of unskilled workers from Nepal working in the industrial and agriculture sector. Nepal will never have an ally that offers its citizens free access for work, education, health services, tourism, travel, religious pilgrimage and business. Such a facility has been extended by India to the Nepalese citizens without reciprocation from Nepal. Closing down the border and treating Nepalese citizens as per diplomatic protocol followed globally will harm the interests of the people of Nepal. Therefore, Nepal must exercise caution and restrain not to burn the bridges that may become difficult to rebuild in future.


India has been shy of using military diplomacy with its neighbours, whereas there are special relations and close ties between Indian Army and Nepal Army that has been rarely exploited to reset the ties between two nations. After long hiatus of nearly more than four months, relations between India and Nepal could be set in motion, the visit of Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane to Nepal, where he will be conferred with the title of the honorary Chief of the Nepalese Army is a much-needed initiative for stabilisation of relations between the two close neighbours. This special tradition of bestowing the title of honorary Chief on each other’s Army Chief dates back to the period of Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw who was proud enough to change his name to Sam Bahadur as a homage to his brave Gorkha brethren. This military tradition has helped in strengthening military to military relations between the two Armies. Fortunately, this tradition has continued despite some occasional ups and downs in the relation between the two nations. It is a good initiative that the leaders of both the nations have taken a pause and allowed military to military engagement to take place to kick-start the dialogue between two neighbours. It is a positive step that the Indian Government has sent their Army Chief and the Nepalese Government by willingly receiving him and honouring him. The President of Nepal bestowing the honorary General’s rank and the PM of Nepal meeting him in the capacity of Defence minister needs to be understood in a positive manner. It is pertinent to mention that Nepal Army has always acted as a permanent ambassador of India in Nepal due to their long association with the Indian Army. However, off late India has neglected this aspect and it must be given impetus by building bridges with the Nepalese Army and police.

Both the Governments need to take this visit as a trigger for a new beginning, an opportunity to reset our relationship to the current strategic realities, the recommendations of the Eminent People’s Committees report which is available with the Government could be a guideline. A very important part is that the relations between the two strategic neighbours should not be taken hostage by irresponsible media or local domestic political considerations in either of the nations.


Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the health care, education institutions along the borders for the common good of the citizens of the border areas of both countries. Villagers living along the Kali River should be allowed to use the road Dharchula-Kalapani for movement ‘to and from’ Dharchula. India needs to send a message that this road is built for collective good of India and border citizens of Nepal.

One visit by the Chief of the Army Staff may not be sufficient and thus there is a need to have a permanent presence of Indian military leader in Kathmandu either by way of posting a Gorkha Regiment General as an Ambassador or Special Envoy to Nepal. This engagement must remain unbroken and resilient. Nepalese Army and even the civil bureaucracy are more comfortable in dealing with a Nepalese speaking Army envoy who understands their language and ethos better than a diplomat who has lesser linkages with the people on the ground. The tenure of late Lt Gen S.K. Sinha as an ambassador is a proof of it.

India should guarantee unobstructed access to the port and dry docks. However, Nepalese government should be made accountable to ensure that the access will be unconditional if Nepal does not work against the strategic interest and national security of India.

India should be open to renegotiate the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950. The Eminent Peoples Committee Report could also be examined to give a new direction to the India-Nepal relations.

India must invest in upgrading its cross-border infrastructure and economic assistance to Nepal: There are now new rail and road links, an electronic cargo system for Nepali goods to transit via Indian ports, inland waterway navigation plans, and a new cross-border pipeline for petroleum products. These projects must be pursued at fast pace because it will bring economic benefits to both nations.

Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt (Retd) is an Infantry Officer from 9th Gorkha Rifles. He is a former DGMO, GOC 15 Corps, and Military Secretary of the Indian Army. Brig Narender Kumar (Retd) is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) and former Distinguished Fellow, USI (New Delhi). The views expressed and suggestions made in the article are solely of the authors in their personal capacity and do not have any official endorsement.

Most crucial aspect is building bridges with the people. The strong connect India maintains with the ex-servicemen of Gorkha regiments in Nepal needs to be consolidated. India still remains an economic destination for the people of Nepal. In fact, citizens of Nepal should be granted access to utilise the healthcare and educational institutions along the borders.

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Maiden Indian navy-MDL cup begins in Mumbai

Ashish Singh



The Indian Naval Watermanship Training Centre (INWTC), Mumbai is organising the commencement of sailing activities in Mumbai harbour with the Maiden IN-MDL Cup, National Yachting Championship. At the behest of the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh, as Patron of the Indian Naval Sailing Association, the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) has stepped up to sponsor an annual IN-MDL Cup to promote sailing in the country. The maiden IN-MDL Cup 2020 is being conducted under the aegis of the Yachting Association of India (YAI) for all Senior Olympic classes as the YAI Senior National 2020. The regatta will be a ranking event and will be conducted from 22- 27 Nov 20 near the Sunk Rock lighthouse. After the pandemic, this regatta will once again fill up the skyline of Mumbai harbour with vibrant sails vying for top honours in keenly contested races.

The IN-MDL Cup will see participation from 12 sailing clubs from across India. INWTC(MBI), INWTC(Goa), INWTC (Hamla), Army Yachting Node, EMESC(Bhopal), EMESA, CESC, Tamil Nadu Sailing Association, GYA, National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, NSS Bhopal and NSN Bhopal. The regatta will be held in four basic classes of boats namely the 49er Skiff, 470, Laser and the RS:X class windsurfer. It will be the first time in the history of Senior Nationals where 470 mixed class will participate and compete in the race. Of particular note is the sizeable number of young girls and women participants, which hopefully will be a motivating factor for future aspirants and level out the playing field. The races will be sailed in the following classes of sail boats: Laser Standard(Men), Laser Radial(Women), 470 (Men/women/mixed), 49er(Men), 49er FX(women), RS: X(Men/Women), Finn. The event was declared open by the Flag Officer Maharashtra Area at INWTC, Colaba, Mumbai yesterday.

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INS Shivaji discusses ‘management of structure borne noise’

Ashish Singh



A Webinar on the subject of “Management of Structure Borne Noise” was conducted by INS Shivajil last week under the aegis of Distinguished Chair, Centre of Excellence, Marine Engineering. The Webinar saw participation from over 300 participants comprising Flag Officers, Senior Naval Officers, Veteran Officers and Officers from all branches of Indian Navy. The one-day Webinar commenced with the welcome address by Commodore Ravnish Seth, Commanding Officer, INS Shivaji. The Inaugural Address was delivered by Vice Admiral IC Rao, (r), Distinguished Chair, Centre of Excellence (Marine Engineering). VAdm AK Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command delivered the Keynote Address and emphasised on maintenance of platform to near design conditions to ensure optimal acoustic signatures of ships and submarines. He also urged the industry, academia and shipbuilding industry to seamlessly collaborate with Indian Navy, through strategic programmes by the GoI such as ‘Make-in-India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, to ensure better designs for quieter ships.

Papers on various aspects including measurement, prediction and mitigation of Structure Borne Noise were delivered by subject matter experts from various R&D labs such as NSTL Visakhapatnam, NPOL Kochi, IRS Mumbai, NIOT Chennai, Shipbuilders such as Mazagon Docks and Shipbuilders limited, Design Directorates of IHQ MoD (N) and the Naval Underwater Ranges, Goa. The Webinar witnessed wholehearted and active participation from all attendees towards enhancing the domain awareness in the subject of Structure Borne Noise and its management for all personnel. VAdm SR Sarma, Chief of Materiel, delivered the closing address and emphasized on the life cycle maintenance of machinery onboard ships and submarines. Incorporation of new technologies into design was given a special mention during the Closing Address. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by RAdm CS Baburaj, (D&R). Active participation from all stakeholders during the discussions lead to detailed inputs from the speakers towards enhancement of awareness of Structure Borne Noise and its management.

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