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FACE-OFFS: THE MATRIX AHEAD

Having foiled China’s designs so far, what should be the next step for India? The Chinese have come in with a plan. We need to evict them with an equally astute one.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. —Sun Tzu

At the outset, the faceoffs at Galwan and Nakula are uncharacteristic; in hitherto-fore undisputed areas. These have a co-relationship. Currently there are three ongoing standoffs between India and China at Demchok, Fingers and Galwan areas. Probably one more at DBO as per some reports. These have been analyzed by experts. However. What is China’s motive in these actions? That is not clear. When I was pondering about it, my mind went back to 1999 when I was commanding my Artillery unit in direct support of the Muguthang Brigade. The penny dropped for me and a very plausible motive came forth. I could be wrong and called a fool for it. That is OK. However even if I am partially right and ignored, we might be in for national embarrassment.

A macro review of the military aggression of China is warranted. China starts recovering from the virus situation internally. It sees that others getting affected badly. Its economy seems to be regaining speed. Its mask diplomacy and wolf warriors come into play aggressively. China starts hyping nationalism internally through “saviour of the world”and “global leadership”theories. A strategic window opens. The People’s Liberation Army Navy(PLAN) becomes aggressive with Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea to consolidate its hold in the East China,South China and Yellow Seas. The US and Western countries get pandemically stricken. Thewindow widens especially when the US carriers are off line due to the pandemic. There is a nationalist call and plans are probably made for a cross straits action. However, China realises that the window available for invasion of Taiwan is too small and it backtracks. Around this time China starts suffering severe backlash specially from the US, Australia, and EU. It senses isolation. Its economy is on the verge of heavy contraction. Rising unemployment could lead to unrest. The period of strategic opportunity is over. BRI is going badly with everyone asking for debt write-offs. Relocation and decoupling from China is a reality. There is an impending export collapse. Chinese investments are being blocked globally. Global leadership is fading. The worst backlash since Tiananmenis on the cards.

The situation can be turned around only by doing something spectacular. With US aircraft carriers returning to operational status after the infection is cleared, spectacular gains in the South China Sea are passe. So turn to India. However, India poses problems. Of late it has given a cold shoulder to China. Its strategic shift is towards the US. It is even supporting Taiwan. It has a strong connect with Japan. It spurned joining BRI and RCEP. It has been steadily improving its border infrastructure.It abrogated Article 370. Further it has also blocked Chinese investment. It hasassumed regional leadership during the pandemic. Countries are looking towards it. It is also aiming at global leadership. Indian leadership of WHO could go against China. It is also trying to attract investment which is decoupling from China. Its self-sufficiency programme is to reduce imports from China. Others will follow suit in the region. It provides sanctuary to the Dalai Lama and Tibetans. Most importantly it made China lose face in Doklam and that should be repaid back. Overall, it is the biggest threat to China in the region.

The opportunity is that India is also a soft country and can be coerced to fall in line. Its economy is in shambles. As per estimates once the virus spreads it will badly affect India. When the Virus is rampant, strike India, and coerce it. In doing so,frighten others off from looking at India as a leader, investment destination or an alternate to China. Once India is shown as weak, threaten others with similar fate to crush decoupling attempts from China. Striking India will also break the Quad. It will prove to the world that China is the only power that matters especially since the US is visibly declining.Very importantly, international focus is on South China Sea. Everyone expects India to look after itself. Hence it is isolated militarily. Pakistan will pounce on any opportunity to tie down Indian Forces. Nepal, Sri Lanka Bangladesh, and Myanmar can be arm twisted to act against India.

How does one coerce India militarily to achieve its objective? PLA is in transition from being land based to ocean based. PLAN and PLAAF do not have the capability yet to venture into the Indian Ocean. Whatever has to be done has to be on the land borders.

However, on the land, India is strong. It has greater experience in the Himalayas and has considerable war fighting experience. PLA does not enjoy numerical superiority to defeat Indian Army. Also use of force or threat does not deter India. In any case, against the nuclear backdrop any major conflict is not possible. Further due to the pandemic, it will be inadvisable to commit major forces from the Chinese hinterland and leave the East Coast vulnerable for long. Hence any operation has to be tactical in nature with limited objectives for great strategic outcomes. What are the options for that?

There are viable offensive options available in Eastern Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. However, any option in Arunachal Pradesh needs large force levels to achieve political objectives. Hence the choice is Eastern Ladakh and Sikkim. Both these meet the criteria for achieving the overall objective. The criteria being low force levels to keep low conflict thresholds. It should be an extension of a dispute which can be argued as Indian aggression taking advantage of Chinese weakness. Effect should be that Indian position is visibly compromised, cannot retaliate and China is at a permanent advantage. Deception should hide the real intent and target till execution. Most importantly, there should be a tried and tested formula if available.

In 1962 ops China infiltrated sizeable forces via Tulung La, Mago, Poshing La and established roadblocks at Nyukmadong and Sapper. These roadblocks paralysed India leading to its capitulation. The model can be replicated here in a shallower form consistent to current military situation and requirements.

The first target in Ladakh is the Road from Darbuk to DBO.The road recently completed (after 18 years) connects to Karakoram Pass. This gives direct access to Xinjiang. Access to Xinjiang poses real destabilising threat to China in the sensitive Uighur Area which is bordered with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. It has a long-term threat to destabilise the CPEC also since Karakoram Pass is close to the area ceded by Pakistan to China. So, if this road is interfered with/ cutoff, India will be heavily disadvantaged.

The Galwan Valley is the closest to the road. The incursion at Fingers area is a standard one for local deception. If things escalate there is a need to deny India any offensive options with a preemptive incursion at Demchok. It is closest to Tashigang and the Western Highway which could be Indian targets. As things have panned out, the effort to cut off the DBO road appears to have fallen through due to the alertness of the Indian Army. However, the PLA has dug in non-tactically in a “show of force” after incursion. As it stands the standoff might not result in coercion as planned. Hence the other option must be put into effect.

The second target in Sikkim is the Gurudongmar Road, North of Thangu Valley. It can beapproached through Naku La and the parallel Muguthang Valley (see map). There are some passes on the intervening ridge between the Muguthang and Thangu Valleys to enable an indirect approach to the Gurudongmar Road. A block on this Road will cut off Indian Forces in the North, cut off access to the Tibetan Plateau,open Chinese offensive options into Sikkim, It broadens the baseand reduces vulnerability of the Chumbi Valley. it will be an ideal answer to the Doklam face-off.

It will be a surgical action with options for offensive, defensive or withdrawal. It is a tactical action with a strategic fallout. Its depth can be clouded as part of the unsettled boundary. This is the priority option for Chinese under these conditions and the worst-case option for India. It needs a sizeable force to infiltrate by stealth. The standoff/patrol clash at Naku La is likely to be part of the recce being carried out. For this plan to succeed there is some orchestration to be carried out. These include deception and propagandist projection to resort to armed action. This has been going on. Let us analyse that.

The overall aggression by Chinese and the number of flash points initiated, hide the real McCoy. All of us expect some great action in South China Sea. Note that Wolf Warrior diplomats have been active elsewhere but in India. Here diplomacy is low key and conciliatory. The multiple aggression in Ladakh has focused us there. Pakistan has upped its bleat and instigated action in Kashmir. Nepal suddenly lays claim to LipuLekh Pass. India and China have initiated some talk to de-escalate but that is only initial stages. The Chinese Ambassador has stated that the Elephant and Dragon can dance. Sweet talk to lull the opposition to thinking of peace whilst thickening the fog of war. His statements are ambiguous. Is he waving a red or white flag? In any case have you ever seen an Elephant dance with a Dragon?It would be grotesque. Even the Global Timeshas been uncharacteristically soft on India whilst spewing venom on others. In the meantime, assess the Chinese internal situation — high nationalism, socially unstable,militarily aggressive and economicallyuncertain with the pandemic threat still in air. The international situation is hot. Hong Kong is going awry. Taiwan is openly extending support to so-called separatists there. The US has made threatening noises about Tibet. Isolation is on the cards. Xi Jinping and the Chinese Defence Minister have openly told PLA to be ready for armed conflict. Has the stage has been set for Naku La?

As I have stated earlier, the Chinese may have miscalculated on the Indian Army being adversely affected by the virus. However, on deception they are on the mark. They are on course with their timing. In their estimate they have already whetted the nationalist hunger through actions in South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Ladakhto some extent. They need to do more to take it to its logical conclusion. They will execute their plan if we let them to do so. I am sure after this, concerned people will take action to forestall the Chinese plan. It is quite simple, and I am sure it will be attended to. I again admit that I could be wrong. However, in this high-risk business of military analysis, the wrong input often leads you to the correct answer. Most importantly like the rest of the world, I do not trust China. They cheat, thieve and care two hoots about International law. Theirguarantees are not worth the toilet paper they are written on.

The next question. Having foiled Chinese designs so far what is the next step? Evict them back by force or leverage them to with a counter intrusion elsewhere or exercise asymmetric options or cave into their coercive demands (which will soon follow)? The Chinese have come in with a plan. We need to evict them with an equally astute one.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of artillery. He is now a professor in the Aerospace Department of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology.

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Defence

CADETS OF NCC DIRECTORATE GUJARAT TO BE DEPLOYED AT SURAT IN SUPPORT OF THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FOR COMBATING COVID-19 AS PART OF EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN

Ashish Singh

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As the nation is going through the second surge in Covid-19, NCC Cadets of Gujarat Directorate have volunteered to support Civil administration in various activities as part of the Exercise Yogdan II. In response to the requisition from DM Surat, 56 highly motivated Cadets (both boy Cadets and girl Cadets) have volunteered to provide relief efforts and assist in functioning of agencies employed in Covid-19 at Surat. More Cadets of Gujarat Directorate are likely to volunteer as the Exercise Yogdan II commences. Only Senior Division Boys and Senior Wing Girl Cadets of Gujarat Directorate above the age of 18, are being deployed to support the administration as part of NCC Exercise Yogdan II. All the Gujarat Directorate Cadets deployed would be Senior Volunteer Cadets and with proper Covid safety precautions and adequate care. The Cadets have undergone a thorough training on DOs and Dont’s on Covid Protocols before being deployed.

In addition, on announcement of Tika Utsav by the PM , the Cadets of Gujarat Directorate actively participated in spreading awareness about the necessity of getting Vaccinated and following Covid appropriate behaviour, through door to door interaction and circulating a large number of videos and messages on social media. The Directorate General NCC at Delhi has also made provisions to insure the volunteer Cadets adequately. DG NCC at Delhi has been actively involved and focussed in giving the necessary permission for the employment of cadets. Major General Arvind Kapoor ADG, NCC Directorate Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu informed that last year during Exercise NCC Yogdan I, Cadets of NCC Directorate Gujarat were deployed in maximum numbers which was highly appreciated by the dignitaries and the people of Gujarat. He further assured that all safety precautions related to Covid -19 will be ensured for the Cadets and staff of Gujarat Directorate employed in Exercise NCC Yogdan II. He also complimented the parents to have come forward and given their consent for the Cadets to be deployed.

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Defence

AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES THE INDO-PACIFIC OCEANS INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA

Ashish Singh

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Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. “This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, High Commission O’Farrell said. “Through this program, we are seeking new proposals on how Australia, India and other regional partners can advance our shared maritime objectives”, he added.

 

The AIIPOIP grants program will help deliver practical outcomes under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit in November 2019. “Australia is proud to be co-leading with India the marine ecology pillar of the IPOI”, High Commissioner O’Farrell said. The first phase of this multi-year grant program will encourage proposals from Australian and Indian stakeholders to share expertise and resources, complementing the work under existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Pacific Islands Forum. AIIPOIP is an outcome of the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, signed by Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in June 2020, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Agreement.

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Defence

PROTESTS BY TEHREEK-E-LABBAIK & ONGOING SITUATION IN PAKISTAN

Ashish Singh

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Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.

TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.

In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.

On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.

Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.

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INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.

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Defence

RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.

DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.

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Defence

HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI

The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar

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India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.

Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.

Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.

With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.

Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.

Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.

The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.

Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History

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