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HARPOONS@50: AWAITING RESURGENCE

The 50th anniversary of the Harpoons also marks the 50th anniversary since the last war.

Commodore G Prakash (Retd)

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April 17, 2021, marks the Golden Jubilee of one of the most important Air Squadrons of the Indian Navy, the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 330. With the commissioning of this Squadron on 17 April 1971 at INS Garuda at Kochi, six brand new Seaking Mk 42 helicopters that had arrived from the UK a few months before the 1971 war, got a formal unit. On that occasion, the Squadron also got its official Crest, duly approved by the President of India. The Crest shows a writhing shark that symbolises an enemy submarine, in the last throes of its painful demise, with a blood laden harpoon impaling it. The surprised shark looks up to see its killer, but sees only the menacing golden wing of the Fleet Air Arm attached to the head of the harpoon. Fittingly, the Squadron and the people who serve there are referred to as Harpoons.

MEMORIES OF A GOLDEN TIME

I had the privilege of becoming a Harpoon in 1990 and I was lucky to be there at the right time in history. The world’s most lethal multirole helicopters (MRH) then, the Seaking Mk 42Bs, had just replaced their older cousins, the ones that came in 1971, and there was an unbelievable air of invincibility at sea, centred around the mother squadron, INAS 330. With more Seakings available on the Godavari class ships, each of which carried two Seakings, the Arabian Sea was reduced to a pond. The new Seakings, rightly called Flying Frigates, were real force multipliers. Today as INAS 330 reaches its 50th birthday, there are too many great memories for a large number of people to cherish. Memories of personally experiencing virtually every major element of warfare at sea.

The most exhilarating memories are of hunting submarines. This is done best, hovering about 50 feet above the waves, even on rainy, moonless nights. Hunting, done in complete darkness, straining every nerve to recognise weak metallic echoes from a submarine, through the dull noise of the huge helicopter seeping in through our tight-fitting helmets, gazing at various electronic displays, manipulating many controls, communicating within the aircraft and with the rest of the Fleet in short spurts and all this, with the promise of sure disaster, in case something went wrong with the aircraft. With shared danger of this kind come, memories galore, of brilliant friendships and lifelong bonding too. Being there, during the most golden period of the squadron in its fifty years, was a rare fortune.

But milestones in history have limited use if they are treated only as occasions for reliving the glories of the past and revelling in them. Milestones are better used for reflection, for learning from the past and for using the lessons of the past for charting the way ahead. Here is an attempt at that.

ESSENTIAL HISTORY

Beginnings are important. The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was a small coastal force for seaward defence duties. The larger role of defending India, was looked after by the Royal Navy (RN), with RN Fleets at Trincomalee and Singapore and a small squadron at Bahrain. So, Indian Officers in the RIN had limited experience in the larger aspects of maritime warfare. To complicate matters, the small RIN had to be apportioned between the new born Indian and Pakistani navies. This included personnel too, thus further diluting the indigenous naval talent available at independence. Senior indigenous naval leadership, capable of high-level policy making was absent in 1947, as under the British, Indians had started becoming Officers of the executive branch only in the 1930s. Naturally, we had to depend on the British for advice in the beginning. That was a peculiar situation. It was akin to a freshly divorced husband advising his ex-wife on living her future life well. The ex-husband was sure to protect his interests. The British as a country was no different. They did try to palm off some of their not-so-great platforms to us, for commercial gains.

But several British Officers on loan to the IN showed integrity. For instance, Commodore D.W. Kirke, the Chief of Naval Aviation, whose opposition enabled IN to acquire the brand new French ASW Reconnaissance Alize for Vikrant, over the old and difficult to maintain, British Garnett. This was one of the first episodes of an amazing capability that India has shown since independence, the ability to take autonomous strategic decisions, based purely on its own interests. Many times have India surprised those who sat smug, assuming that they had India in their pocket. Perils of taking old civilisations for granted perhaps. But bridges too are never burnt. Just when someone is upset at a lost business opportunity, there would be a purchase from them, to bring cheer. Wisdom of old civilisations, perhaps. Big ticket deals are never easy for any government. Goodwill has to be spread around, mainly as cash. 

The helicopter story for Vikrant, which starts with the smaller ones for Search and Rescue (SAR) was no different. The British tried to sell their Dragonfly, but India chose the French Alouette. The Dragonflies were older in technology, more difficult to maintain and more expensive than the ultra-modern French Alouettes. True to form, this didn’t prevent IN from getting the next big thing, in fact one of the most important elements of airpower at sea, MRH, from Britain. They had the 10 Ton Seaking Mk 42s, the most capable Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter in the world then. The Seakings were so new, that they entered service with the IN, almost immediately after they entered service with the RN.

ASW HELICOPTERS: ESSENTIALS OF EVOLUTION

Post WW-II, the world was seeing frenetic efforts at developing ASW. The terrible losses German submarines had forced on the Allied Forces during the two World Wars was not the only reason. With the Cold War getting colder and the USSR basing their offensive capabilities majorly on submarines, the ASW situation was getting serious. Ironically, the credit for making the most reliable helicopter went to a Russian, Igor Sikorsky, whose ‘S 6A’ helicopter won him glowing accolades at a military competition held at Saint Petersburg in 1912. He was just 23. In 1919 he became a US citizen, founded the Sikorsky Corporation and went into making one of the most successful series of helicopters in the world. Talk of nations attracting talent. Westland Helicopters Limited (WHL), UK, bought a licence from Sikorsky and began to produce one of the most successful maritime helicopters in the world. Talk of nations buying the right technology and turning it into a great business model.

With the US loaning a submarine, USS Diablo, to Pakistan in 1963, IN had a new enemy to think of. That this came immediately after the 1962 debacle was bad news. Two years later, when Diablo, renamed Ghazi, claimed some diabolic action off the Saurashtra coast in the 1965 war, there was reason to take notice. To quote Admiral GM Hiranandani, the erstwhile official historian of the Indian Navy, ‘the acquisition of new French Daphne class submarines by the Pakistan Navy increased the urgency of acquiring Anti-Submarine helicopters. In 1968, a proposal was made for acquiring 12 Seakings. Sanction for the acquisition of six Seakings was accorded in 1969 and in 1970 an order was placed for their delivery in 1971. Concurrently an order was also placed for the acquisition of the MK 44 homing torpedoes.’ Talk of buying the best, to cater for the worst.

A MIXED BEGINNING FOR HELICOPTER-BASED ASW

Catering for the worst, is more than just buying the best. There are many more aspects to it. As per Adm Hiranandani, after acceptance trials in the UK, our helicopters were utilised to train our aircrew in the UK. The first batch (of crew) returned to Kochi in April 1971. On arrival, all access to the Seakings and their documentation was restricted on a ‘need to know’ basis, (never a great idea when war looms). The second batch, after tactical training at the British Naval Air Station at Culdrose, reported directly to Mumbai in October 1971, two months before the war started.

ASW helicopters are best employed from ships, as an integral resource deployable at will. But when they arrived in 1971, they could have operated only from Vikrant, because the world itself had not got around to operating helicopters from smaller ships. Vikrant having been earmarked for operations on the East Coast where submarine threat was assumed to be lesser than on the West coast, the Seakings remained ashore. That PNS Ghazi finally met her end outside Visakhapatnam harbour, ostensibly while lying in wait for Vikrant, is an eternal reminder of the perils of assumptions and even careful assessments about enemy intentions in war.

When Naval Headquarters at Delhi signalled the likelihood of a pre-emptive Pakistan strike on 14 October, four Seakings were moved from Kochi to Mumbai. However, the use of the Seakings was defensive and lustreless. Official Naval history has this to say. ‘Due to their newness and shortages of technical equipment, they were not utilised to their full potential during the 1971 War. It took another two years for the Seaking’s potential to be fully realised.’ In the war per se, Pakistani submarine threat was assessed to be serious off the Gujarat coast and FOC in C West decided to deploy the 14th Frigate Squadron along with the Seakings operating from Mumbai to eliminate the submarine threat off Diu. The Seaking helicopters were to operate in the southern sector of the search area closer to Mumbai and thereby have longer Time on Task.’

As it turned out, we lost INS Khukri to a submarine in the area. It emerged that the Seakings could have been better utilised operating from Diu but they were considered to be defenceless if attacked by Pakistani aircraft. The Navy asked itself many questions and found honest answers for future use. One among them was that ‘since the Daphne class submarine›s anti-ship capability was known to be superior to our ASW capability, should the ASW operation have been launched at all?’ Happily, ‘the consensus was that in war, it is unacceptable to let an enemy submarine threaten you on your doorstep – it has to be hunted.’ That is an eternal lesson for those in the field, for those who control operations from shore, for those who build and run navies and for those who provide for the whole enterprise. The man in the field will fight with what is at hand. It is everyone’s duty to enable him in doing his job.

LESSONS TO REMEMBER

Between May and October 1971, the Seakings were used to train aircrew and ground crew. Meanwhile, the Tactical School (now Maritime Warfare Centre) at Kochi studied Seaking’s capabilities and limitations, for promulgation of preliminary Tactical Instructions. While promulgating these instructions, NHQ consulted the crew available in India, which was the first group of crew that had received only familiarisation flying at UK. As this group had only limited information of operational use, the preliminary evaluation was to prove misleading. Further, the Tactical School’s Seaking books were given high security classification, causing the people who mattered, remaining ignorant of the aircraft’s potential.

LEARNING FROM THE PAST

With four wars in the first 27 years of existence, the government and the armed forces had learnt good lessons. The government became aware of the importance of ensuring strong military capabilities, balancing the money available, with the myriad requirements of an impoverished country emerging from colonialism. Unavoidable gaps in military capability had to be bridged through other means like diplomacy and foreign policy. The result was there for the world to see. The 1980s saw a virtual explosion of naval capabilities and this reflected on the Fleet Air Arm too. The mighty Seaking Mk 42Bs, were an important part of that great capability surge in the Indian Navy.

In the decade after the 1971 war, the Indian Navy carefully charted out options for all round upgradation of military equipment, and some much-required indigenisation. In the field of MRH, it was to be a two-pronged approach. For indigenisation, HAL was to first make a smaller MRH to develop skills and confidence. A larger one could follow later. Meanwhile, to meet operational needs, some MRH were to be imported. The choice fell again on Seakings. But this time, there was a difference. As I have written elsewhere, the aircraft was to be equipped with state-of-the-art Weapons, Sensors, Communication systems, Navigation systems and most importantly, a Tactical Mission System (TMS) to integrate everything so that operating them becomes humanly possible. The mix was eclectic. Air to Surface Missiles (British Sea Eagle), Torpedoes (Italian A244S), Depth Charge Mk 11 (Indian), Radar (British), Dunking Sonar (French), ESM (Italian), Sonobuoy System (British), Tactical Air Navigation System (British), V/UHF & HF Communication systems (USA) and a British TMS.

This was the first time anyone was attempting to integrate this stupendous mix of capabilities into one helicopter. The best part was that this entire architecture was designed by India, to be executed by WHL.

The 42Bs arrived in India between 1988 and 1990 through possibly the best ever induction process. The planning, placement of a core team in UK for almost five years, extensive training of over thirty air crew and adequate ground crew in UK, timely creation of infrastructure in India, preparation of training facilities and material, and subsequent utilisation of the core team from UK on their return to India, were without blemish. The golden decade that followed, was natural.

DOWNS AND UPS

India’s nuclear test in 1998 brought on US sanctions. The linkages of globalisation created echoes of it elsewhere too. Maintenance support for which we were dependent on the British, was now unavailable. Unfortunately, the indigenous development of a good MRH had also faltered. The Fleet Air Arm had to re-adjust. The Harpoons now had the tough job of continuing to fly their aircraft, using every trick in the book. It was more than just tricks in the book. There was much raw courage too. A mature service also did its best to make things as comfortable as possible.

True to form, the man on the field did his best, with what was at hand. The Harpoons experimented, adapted, reoriented, added on several equipment, unlearnt some lessons and continued to remain operationally credible. They continued to execute some incredible Rescue Missions, picking up distraught people from stricken ships, burning platforms, sinking boats, flooded areas and high-rise buildings. They delivered supplies to disaster hit areas and continued to provide service beyond their logical capabilities. The rich pedigree of the Harpoons motivated them to continue to shine.

LOOKING AHEAD

After two decades of straining to perform their classical role, the Harpoons are poised at the threshold of yet another beginning. Later this year, they expect to receive the third wave of MRH in their history, 24 MH 60 R helicopters from the US, again, from the Sikorsky family. While the $3 billion India will pay for these helicopters is big, even bigger, is going to be the operational gains for IN. As the Harpoons are poised to receive their new birds, there are several questions to be asked to ensure that old lessons are not lost sight of. Have the good aspects of the induction of the 42Bs been replicated? Have provisions been made to avoid the mistakes made with the utilisation of the first lot? Have we put a plan in place for the indigenous development of a MRH that can soon join the new MH 60Rs? That is critical, as the real need for MRH is much beyond the 24 contracted for.

No friendship is permanent. What is white today, can turn black tomorrow. Meanwhile, the enemy is busy proliferating submarines. There is not much time left, for a carefully considered reorientation. But here, we miss a great teacher. War. The 50th anniversary of the Harpoons also marks the 50th anniversary since the last war. That calls for much study of history. Meanwhile, the Harpoons continue to remain sharp, ready to surprise lurking sharks, whatever the odds.

Commodore G. Prakash, Nau Sena Medal, served the Indian Navy for 35 years. A specialist in aviation and anti-submarine warfare, he has held several command and staff appointments at sea and ashore. He has been speaking and writing on military and strategic affairs for long. He is available at gp1064@gmail.com.

With four wars in the first 27 years of existence, the government and the armed forces had learnt good lessons. The government became aware of the importance of ensuring strong military capabilities, balancing the money available, with the myriad requirements of an impoverished country emerging from colonialism. Unavoidable gaps in military capability had to be bridged through other means like diplomacy and foreign policy.

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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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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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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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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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