THE UNKNOWN UPRISING THAT SHOOK THE MIGHTY BRITISH EMPIRE - The Daily Guardian
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THE UNKNOWN UPRISING THAT SHOOK THE MIGHTY BRITISH EMPIRE

In its platinum jubilee year, the 1946 naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

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The week that went by, from 18 to 25 February, marked the 75th anniversary of a landmark event in Indian History—the uprising by sailors of Royal Indian Navy (RIN) in February 1946. Over the years while the uprising has been studied and documented at the academic level it has not acquired the same salience in popular lore as, for example, the 1857 war of independence or the exertions of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose led Indian National Army (INA). The reasons for this are manifold and are a subject of separate analysis. However, recent history indicates that while the Congress spearheaded non-violent approach was the principal vector of our freedom struggle there were many other revolutionary struggles and active movements which contributed significantly to the final outcome. In this light, in its platinum jubilee year, the naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

Sub Lt Balwant Singh with other officers. He was among the few officers discharged from service, as Lieutenant, for suspicion of being involved in the uprising.

Photo Courtesy – RAdm AR Radhakrishnan Retd

Issue of uniform kit to new recruits in 1940.Royal Indian Navy recruitment camp 1941.

RIN Job Advertisement Booklet, published in 1940.

B.C. Dutt

Originally termed as the naval mutiny, the event has, over the years, been described in many ways—revolt, rebellion, insurrection, strike, depending upon the prism of the observer. Irrespective of the characterization, there is little doubt amongst many contemporary historians that the naval uprising along with similar such (smaller scale) revolts in the Indian Army and the Air Force and the INA trials spelt the death knell of the British Empire or, at the very least, hastened its departure. When the British finally realised that the coercive elements of state could no longer be under their control it was game up for the Raj. Before we explore the many dimensions of the uprising, let us look at what happened in those tumultuous days.

BACKGROUND

The end of World War 2 bequeathed a complicated situation in India. The euphoria of winning the war was soon replaced by political uncertainty amidst hopes of early independence and economic distress, caused in large measure due to the burdens imposed by the war. Unemployment, agrarian distress and increased costs of living had made life difficult for the common man. On the global stage, the cold war had begun and the US and the USSR emerged as the new powers. War worn Britain, while still the preeminent colonial entity, was losing its sheen and reaching a point of exhaustion. On the strategic plane, India had contributed hugely to World War 2 by men and material and expectations were rife that this would be recognised by moving quickly towards some form of transfer of power. At the tactical level, the personnel of Indian Army, Air Force and Navy who had fought in foreign territories alongside troops from Britain and other countries realised that they were not inferior in any way, in skills or courage, and hence started questioning the need for them to be servile to a foreign power.

The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was formed, in Oct 1934, essentially as a Coastal Defence force for India, while the British Royal Navy (RN) continued to be in-charge of blue water operations in the Indian Ocean Region and in furtherance of India’s ‘interests’. As war clouds hovered in the late 1930s and Britain realized that RN could no longer afford to devote forces for protection of India, the RIN was rapidly expanded to 15 times its original size from nearly 2000 personnel to more than 30,000. [On Mahatma’s birthday, remembering Indian Navy’s pre-independence journey )

While the RIN acquitted itself very well in the war especially considering the makeshift nature of many arrangements and acquisitions, it could no longer sustain at that size after the war. Hence, the force was planned to be truncated to meagre levels and personnel demobilized. At the end of the war about 20,000 men of the RIN were located in the ships and establishments in Bombay. The British Government decision to demobilise the war time recruits in the post-war period resulted in much dissatisfaction and disquiet because Sailors who had joined the Service after being promised a rosy future of a permanent well-paying job in Navy or assured career transition to civilian jobs were now suddenly being rendered unemployed. There was loss of, both, pride and economic status.

HMIS Talwar the Navy’s wireless communication establishment and training school, in Bombay, accommodated the communication branch ratings and ‘draft reserves’, many of whom were awaiting demobilisation. It was woefully overcrowded with restive ratings. Communication sailors, at that time, were more qualified and were generally better educated; this also made them more questioning of authority and less amenable to discriminatory practices.

THE PRELUDE

As a subsequent RIN Commission of Enquiry (CoE) report on the Mutiny brought out, things had been heating up at Talwar for a while. Unsatisfactory working and living conditions, bad food, indifferent leadership, rude and racist behavior by British officers and Warrant Officers, recruitment promises gone awry, a bleak future that stared many who were being released from service and the volatile political situation were all adding up to a dangerous simmer. The situation is well described by naval historian Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh, in his book ‘Under Two Ensigns’ as “a young over expanded service rapidly disintegrating in the rush to demobilise, living in a supercharged political atmosphere with its own additional feelings of disappointment, apprehension, uncertainty and un-redressed grievances”.

Three events stand out in this regard. On 01 Dec 1945, Navy Day was sought to be celebrated with great fervour emphasising post-war jubilation. It was the first time that the event was open to the public and HMIS Talwar was gearing up for the occasion. While the officials were looking forward to a successful event, a group of dissatisfied ratings, on the preceding night, silently and secretly hoisted brooms and buckets on the mast and painted subversive slogans with political overtones—‘Quit India’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’—on the walls and on the parade ground. As author Lt Cdr G.D. Sharma in his book Untold Story: The Naval Mutiny says, “The first signal of mutiny flashed up on the night of 1 December 1945.”

Another instance brought out by Sharma took place a month later and is further described by history blogger Ratnakar Sadasyula, “The beginnings of the Naval Ratings Mutiny were in an event that occurred on 16 January 1946 when a contingent of more than 60 ratings arrived at the Castle Barracks in Mint Road of Mumbai’s Fort Area. They were from the training ship HMIS Akbar at Thane and it was evening 4 pm. On being informed of their arrival the galley cook, took out 20 loaves of bread, casually added some water to the mutton curry as well as the dal that was from the previous day and served it. The food was so tasteless and substandard that only 17 ratings took it, the rest of them went ashore.”

The authorities took punitive measures including appointing Commander Arthur King a ‘strict no-nonsense’ officer as the new Commanding Officer of Talwar. In retrospect, this was a short-sighted move because he adopted a typical high-handed approach. Similar anti-British slogans again appeared on 01/02 Feb in anticipation of the visit of Vice Admiral JH Godfrey the Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy (FOCRIN). An early ‘success’ in identifying Leading Telegraphist Balai Chandra (BC) Dutt as the ‘mastermind’ of the painting incident and placing him under close arrest induced false optimism and gung go attitude. However, even after that the slogan writing continued.

Further, there were more troubling signs. A sailor, RK Singh, due for release anyway chose to resign instead, as an act of civil disobedience as Sailors were not allowed to resign as per service rules. He was immediately sentenced and sent to Arthur Road prison. The car of Cdr King was painted with Quit India slogans and his tyres deflated. He also received anonymous threatening calls. Unfortunately, none of these were seem as warning signs.

The more proximate reason occurred on the morning of 06 February 1946, when King entered one of the barracks and abused the communication ratings not on duty as ‘sons ofbitches, Junglees and Coolies’ perceiving that they had not paid attention to his arrival. As a protest against his language, fourteen ratings made individual complaints to Lt Commander Shaw, the Executive Officer. Shaw forwarded the complaints to King and apprised him of the gravity of the situation. However, King deferred the matter until 16 February and then told the ratings that they were making false complaints against the Commanding Officer. He gave them twenty-four hours to rethink. As would be obvious, this was a bizarre situation where the accused was adjudicating on his case. Further, his stubborn attitude matched by the determination of the ratings to seek justice took the situation to a boiling point. On the same day Dutt was informed about the authorities’ decision to demote and discharge him from Service.

THE REVOLT

On 18 February 1946, the ratings found the breakfast served was not properly cooked and inadequate. BC Dutt who, many years later, authored a book ‘Mutiny of the Innocents’ says: “As a protest, the ratings walked out of the mess hall. Someone shouted the slogan: No Food, No Work.” Satyindra Singh brings out that “the mutiny originated on the then HMIS Talwar and then spread to various naval ships and establishments all over the country and even beyond Indian shores. Only a few remained unaffected”.

Author Pramod Kapoor who is writing a book on the Uprising describes it thus “Just before dawn on February 18th, 1946, ratings on HMIS Talwar struck work, refused to eat and shouted slogans of ‘Quit India’, ‘Down with the British White Rats’, ‘Jai Hind’ and relayed signals to all within radio range informing them of the strike. The ratings were all young men, barely 17 to 24 years old, but they had lit the spark for what could be termed the Mutiny of 1946. For most people, the Indian mutiny refers to the one that took place in 1857 against the British East India Company, and posed a threat to the British Crown’s rule over India. The Naval Mutiny of 1946 was a courageous and audacious revolt by patriotic young men that spread like wildfire among the ship and shore establishments controlled by the RIN, spreading as far as Aden and Indonesia, and posed a major threat to the British rule because of its timing and circumstance”.

While the political aspects can be debated there is no doubt that the revolt spread far and wide and at its height involved 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 ratings. While Talwar was the nerve centre it spread across Mumbai, Karachi, Visakhapatnam, Madras, Kochi, Jamnagar, Kolkota and Bahrein where other units of the RIN were located. In spontaneous reaction, sailors at these places stopped work, went on hunger strike or resorted to other forms of agitation. In Mumbai, the naval dockyard, ships and Castle Barracks (today’s INS Angre) were enveloped in the revolt. Officers, mostly British, were sent out of the ships and the Union Jack and Naval Ensign were hauled down and replaced with flags of the political parties of the day. Ships were taken over by ratings and in some cases the main guns trained at the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal hotel and the Yacht Club adjacent to it. While this was more to deter any firing at them, the significance of pointing weapons on what were seen as colonial symbols was not lost on the establishment and the general populace. As Talwar was the Communications training school the ratings used wireless telegraphy and codes to communicate among themselves and to spread the message across all naval echelons. The ratings in an act of chutzpah also took over the Butcher Island which served as the ammunition depot for the British.

The immediate cause of the ‘mutiny’ in other ships and establishments were sympathy with Talwar, supportive (or inflammatory depending on the perspective) articles in the press and similar feelings of disenchantment with the authorities. On 19 February 1946, around 2000 ratings from various establishments and ships in Mumbai came down on the breakwater to carry out ‘a sit down strike’. Singh stresses through that “with rare exceptions, the behavior of the mutineers towards their officers was courteous with the usual marks of respect”.

The ‘mutiny’ was also accompanied by civil unrest in many places. The reports on radio and in newspapers spread like fire and considerable sympathy was shown towards the demands of the ratings. In Mumbai, a meeting was held in Azad Maidan by the ‘mutineers’ and they marched in processions shouting anti-British slogans. As the enquiry report states “The ratings paraded the streets… although their behaviour in general was rowdyish, the mutiny was still non-violent.” Mumbai also saw mass protests by citizens coming out in support of the ratings. Civilian port and dockyard workers, mill hands, railway workers, student unions joined in the protest. The public transport system came to a halt, trains were burnt, roadblocks were erected and commercial establishments were shut down. A general strike in support of the revolt took place in Bombay on 22 February and in Karachi on both 22 and 23 February. The revolt came to receive widespread support from public even for the short period that it lasted, not only in Bombay and Karachi, but also in Calcutta, Ahmadabad, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai, Kanpur and several places in Assam.

The ratings formed a Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC); MS Khan, Leading Telegraphist and Madan Singh, Petty Officer Telegraphist, were elected as the President and Vice-President respectively. On 19 February, a meeting was held at Talwar between Flag Officer Bombay Rear Admiral AR Rattray, RIN officials and representatives of the NCSC. The Committee demands included aspects such as non-victimisation of strikers, release of R.K. Singh, speedy demobilisation and reasonable peace time employment, immediate disciplinary action against Commander King, improvement in standards of food, scales of pay and other aspects of work environment. Interestingly, the demands also included immediate release of political and INA leaders, immediate and impartial enquiry into the firing on the public all over India and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Indonesia and Middle East. The last part clearly indicated the political nature of the protests.

As may be expected the establishment having been taken by surprised reacted with full fury. The ratings were warned to surrender failing which threat of use of force was openly made. The Government summoned Royal Navy ships from the East Indies Fleet at Trincomalee, RN ships in harbour were asked to be at standby for actions against RIN ships commandeered by mutineers, British Army troops were called in after the Indians refused to fire, Tanks and Artillery were requisitioned for support if needed and the Air Force bombers made low passes over naval dockyards in a show of strength. Unfortunately, pitched battles took place between the revolting ratings and their antagonists in the Castle Barracks of Mumbai where the Army troops laid a siege of sorts, surrounding the Castle and cutting off water and electricity while the ratings responded by sniping at them from the parapets, and in Karachi where an exchange of gunfire took place between ratings on HMIS Hindustan and Army troops. Mumbai witnessed 2 deaths and 6 personnel injured while Karachi saw 8 deaths and 40 injured. 33 personnel could not be accounted for and while presumed deserted by the authorities then may also have figured on the casualty list. Also, many sailors in various parts of the country were arrested and put in custody during the crisis.

In Bombay, the mass civil unrest and certain acts of arson by extreme elements resulted in curfew being imposed and police/military firing on unruly mobs. A panicky establishment reacting in knee jerk manner caused considerable blood to be spilled as close to 400 people were killed and nearly 1,500 injured. As Sharma eloquently brings out, “It must be said to the credit of the striking ratings that it required the bravest of the Braveheart to face the British might in this unequal contest. The ratings were now facing military might similar to the 1857 mutiny against England.”

While generating popular support, the uprising did not, however, garner the backing of the main political parties. The movement was leaderless and rudderless unlike, for example, the INA where the charismatic leadership of Netaji provided the glue and organisational coherence. Further, the naval uprising was seen as a one-off episode and not continuation of a political movement. This deprived it of much legitimacy. Some experts also argue that the Congress and the Muslim League having moved into pole positions with regard to transfer of power did not wish to cede that space to anyone or detract from that trajectory.

The happenings in Bombay and elsewhere were seen as acts of indiscipline and defiance of the authority by most political leaders of significance such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. While Pandit Nehru was more sympathetic, he too did not wish to upset the non-violent nature of the freedom struggle. As historian Srinath Raghavan says, “The leaders realised that any mass uprising would inevitably carry the risk of not being amenable to centralized direction and control. Besides, now that independence and power were in sight, they were eager not to encourage indiscipline in the armed forces”. On 22 February Sardar Patel sent a message saying, “The strikers should lay down all arms and should go through the formality of surrender, and the Congress would do its level best to see that there is no victimisation and the legitimate demands of naval ratings are met as soon as possible.” This advice was eventually accepted.

The revolt was called off following a meeting between M.S. Khan and Vallabhbhai Patel. Patel issued a statement calling on the strikers to end their action, which was later echoed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League. However, the agitations, mass strikes, demonstrations and support for the revolt continued for several days even after it had been called off. The surrender statement was remarkable for its defiant tone. It stated: ‘Our strike has been a historic event in the life of the nation. For the first time, the blood of the men in the services and the people flowed together in a common cause. We in the services will never forget this. We also know that you, our brothers and sisters, will not forget. Jai Hind.’

Part 1 of the two-part series.

The authors are associated with the Naval History Project. Views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the Indian Navy or the Government of India.

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Defence

UP CM INAUGURATES ISDA 2021; ALIGARH NODE OF UP DEFENCE CORRIDOR TO BE INAUGURATED BY AUGUST

Ashish Singh

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The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), in partnership with the Confederation on Indian Industry (CII) and the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), is organizing the Indigenisation Summit on Defence and Aerospace (ISDA) 2021 from 28th to 31st July. Speaking at the Inaugural Session of ISDA 2021, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath said that the Defence corridor in UP is a greenfield project and the industries coming alongside the six nodes of the corridor can benefit immensely from the scheme by becoming part of the ecosystem. 1409 hectares of land has been earmarked under the corridor. The project proposals received so far from 54 companies would create employment of more than sixteen thousand people. He shared that development of roads, electricity, water & boundary walls are underway for the Aligarh node and the inauguration of the Aligarh node, comprising of 74 hectares of industrial land divided into 19 units is proposed in August 2021.

Sharing that 2500 crores have been earmarked by the central government for promoting investments in the defence corridors, he said that land banks were being created for zones where there is a greater demand of land for investment projects. The state government along with the Defence Ministry is also working on the establishment of labs under the Common facilitation centre, Defence testing and Infrastructure scheme which would benefit MSMEs & Start-ups in prototyping, technology training as well as design & development. The state government has also established centres of excellence at IIT Kanpur, BHU for a greater engagement between the Indian navy, industry & academia. The first instalment of the grant for research & development at these centres has already been disbursed & the second is under consideration. Awanish Awasthi, ACS-Home & CEO, UPEIDA noted that the vision of the UP government is to attain 1st position as a business destination. Speaking on the progress of the nodes of the Defence corridor, he mentioned that infrastructure development to the tune of 32 crores is underway at Aligarh and the node is expected to be ready for inauguration by August 2021.

The Kanpur node, where 25 crores has been assigned infrastructure development would also be ready in a couple of months whereas the Jhansi node work would be taken up in the next six months. Chairman ISDA 2021 & Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace Manoj Gupta remarked that a strong and empowered defence ecosystem is crucial for any country seeking to emerge as a significant global player. With the thrust provided by the ‘Make in India’ movement, today India’s exports are to the tune of ten thousand crores which was merely five hundred crores eight years back. Measures like only domestic tenders for contracts below 200 crores, increasing FDI limit in defence production from 49% to 74%, greater number of production categories, defence offset program as well as an updated DAP 2020 will further embolden the defence manufacturing in the country. He further pointed out that a higher offset for defence industries as well as a single-window system for license issuance for the defence manufacturers will go a long way in making UP a hub for defence & aerospace. Jayant Patil, President, SIDM pointed out that the reforms pertaining to the defence sector are focused on building capacity. This is evident through the 15% increase in defence budget allocation. He also highlighted that two-thirds of the defence budget is now dedicated to purchases from Indian industries, of which 20% has been reserved for MSMEs. Patil mentioned that 208 items have been moved to the positive list now hence no imports of these items would be allowed into the country to promote the Indian manufacturers. He highlighted that Indian is expected to be the security provider in the Region, for which the industry can prove to become the sixth arm of the Indian Defence system. Speaking on the occasion, Sachin Agarwal, Chairman, SIDM UP Chapter pointed out that today, close to 8000 Defence Sector MSMEs, primarily from tier 2 and tier 3 cities form the backbone and are the largest part, in terms of volume, of the Industry. He also mentioned that the industries that are bound to grow and mature in this phase of development will find that UP can provide the necessary infrastructure and support needed to augment production and services. Agarwal highlighted that the Government planning to spend $250 billion over the next 10 years for the modernization of its Forces and the Industry will have a critical role to play in meeting these demands. Ashmita Sethi, Co-Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace spoke about the various emerging technologies being deployed in defence manufacturing for which UP can become a potential hub. These included defence electronics, MRO facilities, space related research & development, electric military vehicles among others. Over the 3 day period, Sessions with UPEIDA, DPSUs and the Services HQs will be held to generate awareness about opportunities available for the Industry vis-a-vis Defence Manufacturing.

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IAF FORMALLY INDUCTS RAFALE AIRCRAFT INTO NO. 101 SQUADRON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Air Force formally inducted Rafale aircraft into No. 101 Squadron at Air Force Station Hasimara in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on Wednesday. Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) presided over the induction ceremony. On arrival, CAS was received by Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command. The event also included a fly-past heralding the arrival of Rafale aircraft to Hasimara followed by a traditional water cannon salute.

Addressing the personnel during the induction ceremony, CAS said that the induction of Rafale had been carefully planned at Hasimara; keeping in mind the importance of strengthening IAF’s capability in the Eastern Sector. Recalling the glorious history of 101 Squadron which bestowed upon them the title of ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor’, CAS urged the personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He said that he had no doubt that the Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.

101 Squadron is the second IAF Squadron to be equipped with Rafale aircraft. The Squadron was formed on 01 May 1949 at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this Squadron includes active participation in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.

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RAJNATH SINGH ADDRESSES SCO DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING IN DUSHANBE ‘

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated Member-States of the SCO on successful completion of 20 years of its existence. He said that though India joined the organisation in 2017, historical and civilisational relations and geographical connects make India inseparable from the SCO. Addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Wednesday Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, Terrorism is the most serious threat to international peace and security. “Any act of terror and support to such acts, including cross border terrorism, committed by whomsoever, wherever and for whatever motives, is a crime against humanity,” he added. The Defence Minister reaffirmed India’s resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Rajnath Singh emphasised, “India accords high priority to the consolidation of trust in the security domain within SCO as well as strengthening ties with SCO partners bilaterally on the basis of equality, mutual respect and understanding.” The challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their sincere practice, he added.

Stressing on the importance of the regional group, Rajnath Singh said, “The SCO Nations, together, encompass nearly half the human population on our planet. In terms of geography, it covers approximately three fifths of the Eurasian continent. We, therefore, have collective stakes to create a safe, secure and stable region that contributes towards progress and improvement of human development indices of our people and the generations which will follow.” He pointed out that it is in the same spirit India helps people of Afghanistan, which is facing violence and devastation over decades. So far India completed 500 projects in Afghanistan and continuing with some more with total development aid of US dollar 3 billion. Speaking about geo-strategic location of India that makes it both a Eurasian land power and also a stake-holder in the Indo-Pacific, the Defence Minister said, “Our intent and aspirations are therefore focused towards prosperity and development of the entire region. We affirm this intent through our national policy of Security and Growth for All in the Region, commonly known by the acronym SAGAR.” Security and Stability are most essential components to create conducive environment for growth and economic development of the region and of our respective Nations, he added.

Reiterating India’s resolve to work within the SCO framework for helping create and maintain a peaceful, secure and stable region, Rajnath Singh highlighted, “India also reiterate commitments to partner with fellow SCO Member-States to develop joint institutional capacities that respect individual national sensitivities and yet generate a spirit of cooperation to create contact and connectivity between people, societies and nations.” Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Defence Minister said “It has affected nations, civil societies and citizens in multiple ways. This is a warning sign of how non-traditional security challenges like pandemics, climate change, food security, water security and associated societal disruptions can impact national and international landscape.”

Rajnath Singh said the Armed Forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation played a stellar role in efforts against Covid-19. He said, “During the global pandemic, India was able to provide support and assistance to countries around the world. This includes 6.6 crore doses of vaccines to 90 countries, support with medicine, medical consumables and equipment to 150 countries. We may mention the massive ‘Vande Bharat’ logistic service to move over 70 lakh stranded people, including foreigners, mostly by air route, but also by our ships in the Indian Ocean.”

Defence Minister assured, “India plans to produce well over 250 crore doses of vaccines between August and the end of 2021.We are determined to vaccinate at least 90 crore adult Indians and to help other friendly countries with vaccine.”

The Defence Minister called upon Member-Nations to evolve to meet the needs of its time. He said, “No institution, howsoever important, can remain frozen at the moment of its foundation. The inherent strength of SCO lies in the fact that Member-States participate in cooperation programme at their own pace and as per respective national policies. We are glad that SCO has evolved as truly an international organisation of significance.” Event of today is yet another step towards strengthening stability and security in the region. This will serve to further development of multilateral cooperation within the SCO format, he added.

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INDIAN NAVY & IDFC FIRST BANK OFFER HONOUR FIRST BANKING SOLUTIONS TO NAVAL PERSONNEL

Ashish Singh

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IDFC FIRST Bank announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Navy to offer Honour First, a premium banking solution, to serving personnel and veterans of the Indian Navy. Honour First is specially designed keeping in mind the needs of the Armed Forces community. It includes a zero balance salary Honour First salary account with unlimited free ATM transactions from any location, free fund transfers through IMPS, RTGS, and NEFT, free lost card liability protection and purchase protection. It has an accident insurance cover of Rs 46 lakh which include a children education grant of Rs. 4 lakh for wards of age up to 23 years and an additional Rs 2 lakh for girl child marriage cover for daughters in the age bracket of 18 years to 25 years. The MoU for Honour First was signed at the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi between Commodore Neeraj Malhotra, Commodore – Pay and Allowances, Indian Navy and Colin D’Souza, Head – Corporate Salary, IDFC First Bank.

Indian Navy is responsible to safeguard the maritime frontiers of the country including the island territories against external aggression as also assist in the safety of the world sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Speaking on the occasion, Amit Kumar, Head-Retail Liabilities & Branch Banking, IDFC First Bank, said, “It’s a proud moment for us. The association couldn’t have come at a better time as the Indian Navy celebrates the Golden Jubilee of the 1971 war. The Honour First solution is customised to the needs of Naval personnel and stands rooted in our customer-first and nation-first approach. We are constantly improving our offerings using state-of-the-art technology for a superior customer experience. It is a privilege for us to now serving the Indian Navy with an array of our convenient banking services, digitised financial solutions and enhanced access.” Malhotra said, “I welcome the initiative of IDFC First bank to offer customised banking solutions to suit the needs of Indian Navy and its personnel.”

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FLEET AWARD CEREMONY OF WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HELD AT MUMBAI AFTER ONE-YEAR GAP

Ashish Singh

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The Fleet Award Ceremony each year marks the end of the operational cycle of the Western Fleet, the Sword Arm of the Western Naval Command. The ceremony was held at Mumbai after a gap of a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the ceremony was hosted by Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet. The ceremony marked the operational achievements of the Fleet from April 2020 to March 2021. The event was attended by Flag Officers of Western Naval Command with Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command as the Chief Guest.




The ceremony hosted this year was a modest one in adherence to Covid norms. While the attendance was in limited numbers, the achievements of the Fleet were numerous as expected of the Sword Arm. A total of 20 trophies were given away covering a myriad spectrum of naval operations, safety practices and morale. INS Kolkata was awarded the ‘Best Ship’ among the capital ships for exhibiting immaculate grit whilst undertaking a plethora of maritime operations. INS Tarkash was awarded the ‘Most Spirited’ ship for an awe-inspiring display of enthusiasm and morale in all Fleet activities, exercises at sea and indomitable spirit. INS Deepak won the award of ‘Best Ship’ in the category of Tankers and OPVs.

The year covering the operational cycle from April 2020 to March 2021 was anything but ordinary. While the norm of the hour was to work from home, the Western Fleet remained mission deployed and poised for action during the challenging period last year. The Western Fleet also contributed immensely to Covid relief missions in support of the National effort to fight the pandemic. The ships and aircraft of the western fleet also undertook daring rescue operations to save innumerable lives when cyclone Tauktae struck the western coast of India. Today’s ceremony also paid a tribute to the sacrifices of the men and their families who put the call of duty before themselves for all these missions. The Sword Arm remains the first responder, operationally deployed, combat-ready and stood too.

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Defence

US STATE SECRETARY BLINKEN ARRIVES IN NEW DELHI ON A TWO-DAY VISIT

Ashish Singh

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The USA State Secretary Antony J. Blinken has landed in New Delhi on a two-day visit to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening Indo-US partnership and underscore cooperation on shared priorities. Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar to discuss a wide range of issues, including continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis. On Indo-US ties, Secretary Antony J. Blinken has said, “The US and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are having a profound impact on the lives of our citizens. The partnership between the US and India is vital, it’s strong, and it’s increasingly productive.”

THE INDO-PACIFIC FRONT

India is a leading global power and a key US partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. At the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit in March, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19, combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.

DETERRING ADVERSARIES AND DEFENDING INTERESTS

US-India defence cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defence enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA. As of 2020, the US has authorised over $20 billion in defence sales to India. Through the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the US and India work together on co-production and co-development of defence equipment. The US and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan.

STRENGTHENING THE US-INDIA PARTNERSHIP

The US and India have a strong strategic partnership founded on shared values and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The US has supported India’s emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion. The US and India cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and security issues, including defence, non-proliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, shared democratic values, counterterrorism, climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, peacekeeping, the environment, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and oceans. In 2008, the US and India signed an agreement, making India a full partner in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Program. An increase in exchanges under the agreement has allowed for the development of new and innovative programs, and India now has the largest Fulbright Scholar (faculty) program in the world. In FY 2019, this funding provided opportunities for 61 U.S. Scholars, 66 Indian Scholars, 80 US students, including 29 English Teaching Assistants, and 55 Indian students, including 13 Foreign Language Teaching Assistants. The US and India are working to expand cooperation in international organisations. The US welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in January 2021 for a two-year term. In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the US looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year.

COMBATING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The US has contributed more than $200 million to India’s Covid-19 relief and response efforts since the pandemic began, including more than $50 million in emergency supplies and training for more than 218,000 frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, benefitting more than 43 million Indians. Earlier this year, the US and India initiated the renewal of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, including Covid-19 and other emerging threats. The US and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to Covid-19, on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains. The US pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic. This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, therapies, and conducting clinical trials.

TACKLING CLIMATE CRISIS

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry travelled to India in April of this year and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They discussed the importance of two of the world’s largest economies leading together to address the climate crisis. At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to strengthen cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to help each country achieve its respective climate and clean energy goals. Under the new Agenda 2030 Partnership, the US and India look forward to launching the new Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and relaunching the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, led by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, later this year. The US looks forward to furthering cooperation with India on tackling the climate crisis and rising global ambition ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, in November.

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