CHOPPY SEAS AHEAD
India’s service chiefs have had their resignations accepted only after military defeats. General P.N. Thapar was the only chief to have done so in November 1962, following the Indian Army’s humiliating defeat by the Chinese in a border war. On February 26, Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi became only the second service chief in India’s history to have his resignation accepted. He took moral responsibility for a series of accidents that have plagued naval warships in recent years.
The immediate incident that propelled the Navy chief’s resignation was a fire onboard naval submarine INS Sindhuratna earlier that day. Two officers possibly died after inhaling the poisonous freon gas discharged by the submarine’s crew to fight the fire onboard. The fire capped a year which saw at least eight accidents involving naval warships in as many months. Admiral Joshi’s resignation comes at a time when politicians and sports czars alike have clung, limpet-like, to their chairs. It was hailed by his peers and politicians. “Admiral Joshi has set a precedent which no one else has,” former Air Force chief Fali Homi Major said. “No more Shastris, at least not since Scindia Sr,” the BJD’S Jay Panda tweeted about the two Union ministers who had quit after railway accidents. But the larger question remains, of the future of the Navy he has abandoned. The accidents are symptoms of a deeper malaise within the service, of a lack of accountability at senior levels, and of ageing warships.
In accepting the Navy chief’s resignation, A.K. Antony may also have reopened clamour for his own. His seven years as India’s longest-serving defence minister have been marred by an age-related row with the Army chief and bribery allegations in the $580million purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters from AgustaWestland in 2010. Antony has deflected criticism by staying under
DEFENCE MINISTER A.K. ANTONY WITH ADMIRAL D. K. JOSHI (RIGHT) AND WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND CHIEF VICE-ADMIRAL SHEKHAR SINHA