Indian Navy

The Five Formative Years Of The Indian Navy From 1965 to 1970

The Indian Navy maybe 75 years old, but it took nearly two decades after Independence to set her sailing down the right path. That too, after surviving a major scare in 1965. Had the Indo-Pak War of 1965 carried on for a few more days, India could have lost the Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) Islands for good. The Indonesian Navy, a formidable force in the region at that time, was steaming towards the Archipelago to support Pakistan’s war effort and India had no answer.

In 1947, the British had left a couple of ageing Leander Class Frigates and some smaller vessels to India. For nearly two decades thereafter, there was little or no effort to build up the Indian Navy despite the country’s long coastline of more than 7,500 km with Pakistan sitting astride. India’s leaders preferred diplomatic forays and efforts to establish themselves as world leaders than strengthen the country’s defences. 

Launch of the INS Dunagiri, guided missile stealth frigate from GRSE in Kolkata

The 1962 Sino-India War and Thereafter

Let’s face it. India faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of China in 1962 though neither the Indian Navy nor the Indian Air Force (save for dropping supplies and casualty evacuation) was involved in the conflict. Anyways, the Indian Navy then was in no position to call the shots or threaten the Chinese in any way. The Indian Air Force could have played a major role but that is another story altogether. 

In 1965, Pakistan decided that it was time to capitalize on India’s shortcomings in the 1962 War. Fortunately, over the three years after 1962, Indian Ordnance Factories had been revived and the Indian Army soldier was armed with 7.62 mm Self Loading Rifles instead of World War II vintage .303 Enfields. The Pakistan Navy was nothing to talk about at that time and the 1965 War was largely limited to land warfare in the Western Theatre. 

Indonesia, however, decided to side with Pakistan. Leaders of that country stated that it was their moral duty to stand by an Islamic nation, notwithstanding the fact that India had helped the country out against its Dutch occupiers. The Late Biju Patnaik’s dilapidated Dakota at the Kolkata Airport stands as mute testimony to the risks he took to evacuate top Indonesian leaders from Jakarta even as the Dutch threatened to bring down his aircraft. 

By 1965, Indonesia had emerged as a major naval power in the region with warships and submarines from the erstwhile USSR. During the 1965 Indo-Pak War, India had placed whatever naval assets she possessed along the Western seaboard. There was nothing to protect the country’s Eastern coast, leave alone the A&N Islands. An Indonesian Navy flotilla was already approaching the A&N Islands when a ceasefire was declared between India and Pakistan. Indonesia was no longer keen to take over the Archipelago. 

The forward-looking Admiral who shed his Vice

Till March 1966, the Indian Navy was headed by an officer of Vice Admiral rank. Things were to change when Admiral Adhar Kumar Chatterji took over. He is jokingly referred to as ‘the Admiral who shed his Vice’. An alumnus of Presidency College (now Presidency University), Kolkata, Admiral Chatterji took the bull by its horns and brought about sweeping reforms. His aim was to develop a modern Indian Navy. 

It was under Admiral Chatterji that the Eastern and Western Naval Commands of the Indian Navy came into being. He personally took charge of the Western Fleet and orchestrated the procurement of India’s first submarine the INS Kalvari. The political establishment, by then, had realized the importance of building up the Indian Navy into a formidable fighting force. With enhanced ties with the USSR as well as other nations, the Indian Navy started receiving much-needed vessels. By then, the INS Vikrant, India’s first aircraft carrier had also joined the Indian Navy fleet and it was to play a key role during the 1971 Indo-Pak War that led to the Liberation of Bangladesh. 

The years between 1965 and 1970 were indeed crucial in leading the Indian Navy toward its path of protecting the country’s maritime boundary. 

The Present Situation and The Way Forward

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has grown by leaps and bounds over the last three decades. It still eyes occupation of the A&N Islands and sends warships and submarines regularly through the Malacca Straits to the Indian Ocean Region. China calls this an effort to prevent piracy as a large proportion of its trade sails along this route. But why a country would require submarines to counter piracy is anybody’s guess. Most Chinese submarines have been detected snooping around India’s Territorial Waters. Some have been driven off. 

India has now embarked on a major journey of turning the Indian Navy into a ‘Builders Navy’. About 40 warships are now being built at shipbuilding facilities across the country. India has achieved self-reliance in steel required for warships. Building of the INS Vikrant – India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier – at Kochi with this steel was a major achievement. Modern warships at other Indian shipyards are also being developed with more than 80% Indigenous content. 

Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) is now executing 15 orders for the Indian Navy. These include three stealth-guided missile frigates under the Navy’s Project 17A, eight Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Watercraft (ASWSWC), and four Survey Vessels (Large). Among these, the ASWSWCs are interesting. 

“The Indian Navy uses ASW warships that operate on the high seas. In fact, GRSE has delivered four of these Kamorta Class ASW Corvettes to us. The ASWSWC would be similar but operate along India’s coastline to detect and destroy threats. The first of these will be launched on December 16,” said Commodore Indrajeet Dasgupta, Warship Production Supervisor for the Indian Navy at GRSE. 

According to a source, these ASWSWC would be capable of handling threats from midget submarines and underwater drones that could pose a major threat to harbor entrances and other locations close to our coast. With 130+vessels, including submarines and several more at various stages of completion, the Indian Navy is now looking forward to an era of supremacy so far defence of India’s maritime borders is concerned. On line are Next Generation Corvettes and Landing Platform Docks.


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