CHOPPY SEAS AHEAD

India Today - - DEFENCE - By San­deep Un­nithan

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

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