Indian Navy in Nation Building

Security alone brings stability which enables development. Maritime power is one of the major elements of national power. Maritime supremacy provided by Indian Navy ensures uninterrupted trade which creates more national wealth.

Issue: 6-2020 By Commodore G. Prakash (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Navy
Commodore G. Prakash retired in December, 2019. A specialist in Aviation and Anti-Submarine Warfare, he has held several Command and Staff appointments.


Crew of INSV Tarini for the First Indian All Women Circumnavigation of the Globe Expedition

Crowds which gather on Indian beaches to watch the sun rise or set, do not pause to think beyond the immediate glory on display. But unknown to most among them, the vast ocean they see, supports a service that contributes immensely to making their country, a real nation. As they continue to live in peace and aspire for prosperity, the Indian Navy enables them in many ways, both at sea and on shore, in ways tangible and intangible.

Making of Nations

For over 2,000 years, the world has perceived our lands and her people, as India, a nation. This is probably even before Indians developed the same perception about themselves. The world developed the above perception based on what they saw, what they heard, what they tasted, and what they coveted from a distant land they knew as India. This was not possible without the oceans carrying Indian people, thoughts, philosophies, culture and goods to those distant lands. Today, for India, the Indian Navy, is a prime source for spreading awareness of India and Indians to distant lands. Every Indian Naval ship, or for that matter any Indian Naval unit, whether at sea or ashore, is a real slice of India. People belonging to every part of the country live and work there, as just Indians.

Experiences from Across the World

As we sailed into Durban in South Africa in December 1993, we didn’t know the deep experiences that awaited us there. In the subsequent days we spent there, thousands of people flocked to visit our ships, to taste a slice of India. For them, India was a wonderful land, from which their forefathers had been wrenched out, and deep love was still alive in their DNA for the land of their forefathers. While I have had similar experiences in several other countries, there was a different one from Cyprus. Eleven years after my trip to South Africa, we sailed into Limassol in Cyprus in 2004. Instantly, the Indians in Limassol were one.

What the Navy Protects

90 per cent of India’s trade by volume, and about 70 per cent by value, moves through the oceans. 78 per cent of India’s requirement in crude oil and 28 per cent in natural gas is imported. This comes solely by sea. Of our domestic energy production, 50 per cent in crude oil and 79 per cent in natural gas too are produced off shore. India possesses billions of dollars worth of offshore infrastructure and other assets at sea. The value of the marine wealth in the 2.2 million square kilometres that makes up our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is immense. That this area corresponds to two thirds of India’s land area, shows the immensity of this sea area, which is our own.

Peace and good order are important, for achieving and sustaining economic prosperity. With several inimical entities in our region, things aren’t easy. Central to some of the worst terrorist attacks perpetrated against India, were explosives and people who came to the country by sea. Ensuring the safety and security of our long coast line and the hundreds of islands that we possess, thus becomes important. Security alone brings stability, and stability alone enables development. It is a closed cycle. National wealth enables the growth of national power, and maritime power is one of the major elements of national power. Maritime supremacy that is made possible by national maritime power, ensures uninterrupted trade, which creates more national wealth. The solid yet silent work of the Navy in support of all this will seep into the nation’s consciousness only when overseas trade is disrupted and the effects start showing in daily life.

When the Nation Rises as One

History shows that nations rise up as one, to face strife, or to celebrate victories. Such instances leave lingering positivity and bring incremental enhancement in national spirit. Between the two, strife has more power to bind people together, especially when there is shared pain, or blood, shed together. An unforgettable event where the nation came together in prayer as one, was, when Commander Abhilash Tomy, India’s lone successful non-stop, unassisted circumnavigator spent a few nerve wracking days in the far away Southern Ocean, fighting alone for his life, in 2018. This was a rare event, but a very tangible manifestation of the nation coming together. However, the Indian Navy is a part of nation building in many ways, every moment, in more imperceptible ways.

Nation Building Through Force Building

The Indian Navy has been at the forefront of indigenisation for long, with great gains in the design and building of ships and submarines. Though not at the same level, gains have been made in the field of aircraft, weapons and sensors too. This is a complex process that brings together people from all over the country in the field of industry, science and technology, education etc, and finally the national work force, giving them all, a sense of collective achievement when they see the things they helped build, perform at sea. Building a Navy, builds the nation.

90 per cent of India’s trade by volume, and about 70 per cent by value, moves through the oceans. 78 per cent of India’s requirement in crude oil and 28 per cent in natural gas is imported. This comes solely by sea.

There have also been several instances where the brilliance of individuals in uniform brought path breaking developments in service, and later, the world itself benefitted from these individuals. One such sterling example is, of Commodore Paul Raj of the Indian Navy, who in the early 1980s made the first successful Sonar ever for the Indian Navy. He then went to USA and pioneered scientific processes that came to be the heart of 4G and 5G technology. The forty year old Sonar of Commander Paul Raj continues to see new version, that continue its contributions to nation building too.

Earth Sciences and the Indian Navy

As a large country, India shoulders a lion’s share of the world’s responsibilities, in Meteorology, Hydrology, Hydrography etc. The Navy makes major contributions to the national effort in collation and study of meteorological and hydrological data, as naval ships, aircraft and submarines remain a perennial source for data from the entire Indian Ocean region. It is the efforts of the Indian Navy’s large Hydrography department, that produces the ocean charts that the world’s mariners, including even our fishermen use, to navigate safely through the Indian Ocean region.

Environmental Protection and Green Initiatives

The spic and span appearance of every Naval Base, other than being an inspirational model for those who behold it, symbolises the deep respect the armed forces in general have for the forces of nature. Mariners who witness the relentless fury of the sea learn not to ever fight against nature’s forces, and instead, learn to use them in their favour. This sublime relationship between man and nature is what manifests as spic and span upkeep of naval spaces. This further percolates to the society at large, through naval families, especially children, who from their early years develop responsible habits and spread it in society in their adulthood.

Confidence in Uniform

India acknowledges her armed forces as a rock solid institution that performs its duties without being affected by politics, religion or weakened by corruption. Rescue and rehabilitation work done during recurring natural disasters in India as well as abroad binds Indians together in the pride and confidence they develop in the men in uniform. With the world around us in various types of turmoil, it has become common to see the Indian Navy in benign action across our region, whether in evacuation of Indian nationals from strife torn countries or in humanitarian support to suffering nations.

Staying in the News

Being in the news helps being in hearts and minds. It also inspires. The 21,600 nautical mile circumnavigation voyage, by six lady Officers of the Indian Navy in 2017-18 is something that caught the imagination of the country. The positive energy this event gave to young ladies and children in the country is beyond imagination. That this voyage followed in the wake of two famous circumnavigation trips, made by Captain Dilip Donde and Commander Abhilash Tomy shows the commitment the Indian Navy has, in spreading a spirit of adventure, to inspire every Indian.

It is also inspiring when the nation reads about our sportsmen bringing laurels, musicians making great music or our scholars spreading knowledge. The same spirits are raised when the nation received news, like that of the Navy’s Mohammad Anas, an Olympian, breaking our national record in 400 metres race at an event in Czechoslovakia, or Tejinderpal Singh Toor, winning an Asian Games Gold in Shot Put with a new Asian record or Dinko Singh boxing his way to Gold at the Asian Games.

National Maritime Consciousness

It is not for nothing that the Navy’s moniker is ‘Silent Service’. Unseen and unheard, they protect all the time, braving the myriad challenges of the great oceans, to bring peace and prosperity to our nation. The more they get into the nation’s maritime consciousness, more is the inspiration they will get, to sustain their performance. The nation building they do, facilitates national unity. National unity being an enabler of national prosperity and national values, the Navy’s role in nation building is large. That President Ram Nath Kovind himself said this in 2017 is testimony to the fact that the nation is beginning to understand and acknowledge this.