Showcasing India’s Maritime Grandeur
While the Indian Navy displayed its strength and wares to the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces during the President’s Fleet Review, President Pratibha Devisingh Patil also expressed confidence that the fleet would meet any challenge that may threaten the maritime security of the country in future submarines by steaming past them. As the President passed by, the crew of participating ships and submarines manned the side in white uniform. White caps are doffed in unison in salutation as the Presidential Yacht steams past. The sound of three ‘Jais’ echoed over the waves, carrying the promises of allegiance and commitment of each and every crew member to the President and the nation. For the first time in the history of the PFR, a warship-carrying an Indian Army officer participated. INS Kesari saluted the President with Lt General Naresh Marwah, Commander-in-Chief of the tri- service Andaman and Nicobar Command. This is the bond that carries them through various challenges in war and peace. This was followed by a fly past of Naval and Coast Guard aircraft.
All three dimensions of the Indian Navy, ships of the Indian Coast Guard and the Shipping Corporation of India were on parade. In addition to ships and submarines at the review anchorage, ships of 22nd missile vessel and 23rd patrol vessel squadron steamed past the Presidential Yacht, including a fly past by 44 aircraft (of different types) of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. The fly-past was led by the newly inducted MiG-29K fighters and followed by helicopters and surveillance aircraft of the Navy and Coast Guard.
Addressing the gathering at the end of the 120-minute display, the President expressed confidence that the fleet would meet any challenge that may threaten the maritime security of the country in future. “The Indian Navy has grown in strength and stature over the last decade. The launch of the nuclear submarine Arihant, and induction of the indigenously built Shivalik class frigates are a reflection of the capability of our shipyards and technological competence of our personnel. The Navy, today, is poised to achieve new milestones with the imminent induction of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the Kolkata class stealth destroyers, the follow-on frigates of the Talwar Class, the indigenous anti-submarine warfare Corvettes and an impressive number of submarines and aircraft. Today, the Indian Navy is one of the most capable in the region and with its well thought out modernisation plans, is destined to grow even further. Besides mentioning the conventional challenges for a country that depends heavily on sea for its trade, she also mentioned about the emerging threat from piracy that has led the Indian Navy to take an active role in anti-piracy missions since 2008. The President also released a commemorative stamp and a coffee table book to mark the occasion and inaugurated a maritime heritage exhibition.
The President’s Fleet Reviews are showpiece occasions for the Navy—a chance to display their wares to the Supreme Commander and thereby to the nation. Considering that navies usually operate beyond the gaze of the people they serve, the fleet reviews give them a chance to connect with their countrymen albeit in a military ceremonial framework.