Swarn Varsh Samaroh - Eastern Naval Command

During five decades of its existence, the Command has been transformed into a truly potent naval force and boasts of the combined might of strong and balanced blue water Navy

Issue: 5 / 2017By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba delivering his key note address at the seminar
The first session of the conference - India as a Resurgent Maritime Power - in progress
Delegates at the seminar

Eastern Naval Command (ENC) was established in 1968 with a responsibility for safe guarding India’s maritime interest across the canvas of the geopolitically strategic Eastern Seaboard. ENC is the largest geographical Command of the Indian Armed Forces, extending from the Sunderbans in the North, to the Gulf of Mannar in the South. This year ENC is celebrating its Golden Jubilee in the form of ‘Swarn Varsh Samaroh’.

It was in 1923 when the British identified Visakhapatnam as an important convoy assembly point for military operation that a small naval outpost was set up in December 1939. Strategic importance of the miniscule naval outpost, which over the years had transformed into a major Training Establishment for the Sailors, could not have remained hidden from the focus of the Indian Navy’s visionary force planners and the Government of India. Thus, the Naval Base at Visakhaptnam was transformed as the Eastern Naval Command on March 1, 1968, and designated as essentially as Submarine Base. Late Rear Admiral K.R. Nair was appointed as the first Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command.

This arrangement turned out to be prophetic as within a short span of little over three years ENC was engaged in hectic preparations for war-like situation on the Eastern Seaboard, centred in the Bay of Bengal. The force levels of ENC were suitably augmented and many frontline warships including the sole aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant were deployed on the Eastern Seaboard. During the War of Liberation, sequel to which an independent and sovereign nation, Bangladesh was born, out of former East Pakistan. In recognition of its sterling role in the joint operations ENC earned several war trophies, biggest of them all being the participation of Late Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command at signing the Instrument of Surrender. Indian Navy’s role during the War of Liberation still continues to be commemorated by the successive Governments of Bangladesh by inviting several Indian Navy Veterans who played sterling role in the creation, training and steering stealthy operations of Mukti Bahini.

During five decades of its existence, the Command has been transformed into a truly potent naval force and boasts of the combined might of strong and balanced blue water Eastern Fleet, a potent submarine arm and an omnipresent air arm, a versatile dockyard and various other support agencies with modern infrastructure and ancillary facilities spread across the entire East Coast.

As part of the Swarn Varsh Samaroh, ENC has planned a series of activities dispersed over the next one year. The first event was a Beach Clean-up and Tree Plantation Drive on April 2, 2017. The next event was the Golden Jubilee Musical Evening in October. The Golden Jubilee Vizag-Navy Marathon will be held on November 12, 2017, which will be followed by a Golden Jubilee Triathlon on December 17, 2017. The Swarn Varsh Samaroh celebrations would conclude with a grand finale on March 1, 2018, when a special documentary on ENC and Visakhapatnam would be released.

Golden Jubilee Seminar with the theme “National Maritime Power-Concepts, Constituents and Catalysts” was held at Samudrika Auditorium on August 22, 2017. Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff was the Chief Guest. The two-day Seminar was jointly sponsored by ENC and the National Maritime Foundation (NMF).

Vice Admiral H.C.S. Bisht, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, in his welcome address narrated the epic journey of ENC over the past 50 years. Delivering the inaugural address, Admiral R.K. Dhowan (Retd), Chairman NMF reiterated the need for fostering a maritime thought process in shaping our policies towards becoming a stronger maritime power in the Indian Ocean Region. In his key note address, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Chief of the Naval Staff highlighted the importance of our maritime objectives and priorities, necessity of convergence amongst all maritime stakeholders and the strategic footprint of the Indian Navy across the oceans.

The first session with theme “India as a Resurgent Maritime Power” was chaired by Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd). Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar (Retd), spoke on the changing nature of maritime power and expanding maritime interests. Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan (Retd), thereafter, discussed China’s increasing footprint, influence and geo-economic interests in the Indian Ocean. Prof Brahma Chellaney spoke eloquently on various non-traditional challenges in the maritime domain and described the existing geo-strategic maritime environment and changing maritime power equations.

The second session on “Maritime Economics, Infrastructure and Maritime Environment” was chaired by Vice Admiral Anup Singh (Retd). The first speaker Dr (Captain) Suresh Bhardwaj, spoke about the challenges faced in the domain of critical infrastructure such as ports, shipping and shipbuilding, and the recommended means to overcome these challenges. Shri S. Ramasundaram, Scientist ‘D’, deliberated upon the need for harnessing ocean resources through technology and work being progressed by the National Institute of Ocean Technology towards developing marine technology and providing a bulwark for our maritime power.

The third session titled “Maritime Security and Safety” was chaired by Vice Admiral Raman P. Suthan (Retd). Rear Admiral S.Y. Shrikhande (Retd) in his presentation put forward his views on the constabulary functions, asymmetric threats and its impact on force structure, budget and operations in the maritime domain. Deputy Inspector General Donny Michael from the Indian Coast Guard thereafter spoke on maritime governance, law enforcement and other complex legal issues in the marine environment including overlapping jurisdictions and legislations. Captain (Dr) Gurpreet Khurana then deliberated upon India’s approach towards humanitarian response for various contingencies at sea and its importance as a regional maritime power.

Second day of the Seminar with session on “Regional Maritime Dynamics” was chaired by Vice Admiral Satish Soni (Retd). Additional Director General, V.S.R. Murthy, Indian Coast Guard deliberated upon issues such as transnational crimes, threats impinging on blue economy vision of India and approach towards marine environment protection. Thereafter, Commander Prakash Gopal elaborated upon India’s imperatives in furthering constructive maritime engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region. This was followed by Captain S.S. Parmar, speaking on balance of power, concepts of power transition and freedom of navigation.

The proceedings of the Seminar were summed up by Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan (Retd), Director, NMF. The valedictory address was delivered by Admiral Arun Prakash (Retd) and addressed the issues and challenges in our maritime domain and proposed a way ahead towards becoming a stronger maritime power.