India celebrates its naval might — Bibliomonde edition

Many countries celebrate their navies on the anniversary of the founding of the country, but this is not the case with India Navy Day (Navy Day, भारतीय नौसेना दिवस), every December 4, commemorates the first major naval victory. It happened during the second war against Pakistan. India, which is helping Bangladesh free itself from the tutelage of its western neighbor, has launched a naval attack on the port of Karachi, the headquarters of Pakistan’s navy. The operation called “Trident” made it possible, on December 4, 1971, to destroy four Pakistani ships and neutralize the enemy’s main naval base.

This naval victory was not actually the first. A decade earlier, Operation Vijay, on 19 December 1961, allowed India to capture the city of Goa, but the Portuguese were barely able to defend themselves, the victory being less impressive than India’s victory over its neighbors in 1971.

Navy Day was first celebrated in 1944, on October 21, the date of Britain’s unrivaled victory. Then it was postponed to December 1, then in 1972 to December 4. It is difficult to point to a foundation, as India inherited the naval power that the British kindly handed over to them after 1947. In other words, only a few ships monitored its coast. Three quarters of a century later, it has one of the ten most important fleets in the world (the 7th, 6th, or even 5th according to criteria and reference years, competing with the French and British fleets).

Usually the celebrations take place in Visakhapatnam, the main port on the Bay of Bengal. But this year, Indian Navy Day was celebrated at the Sindhudurg Fort built on the coast of the Sea of ​​Aden, south of Bombay, by the Marathi emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1660. The event was moderated by Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff. It will involve 20 warships as well as 40 aircraft, including MiG 29Ks and Navy LCA. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the ceremony at Sindhudurg Fort along with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and other dignitaries. After the event, N. Modi will inaugurate the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at Rajkot Fort, Medha, Malvan.

The naval branch of the Indian Armed Forces was founded in 1612 by the East India Company and renamed the Indian Navy on 26 January 1950, two and a half years after independence. It is difficult to celebrate the British origins of the Indian navy. Moreover, in India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the 17th century Maratha emperor, is considered the “father of the Indian navy”. Realizing early on the importance of a maritime presence, he is credited with having established a solid naval force to establish the Maratha kingdom and counter external threats, especially from the Dutch, Portuguese and British. The aim was also to protect the Konkan coast (around Bombay) from piracy. However continuity of the 17th century Maratha fleet and the present navy is difficult to establish.

December 4 is not a public holiday in India, but an official commemoration. The ceremony, in addition to laying wreaths at the war memorial, also included naval musical performances, a lively bagpipe dance performed by SCC cadets… The celebrations ended with a dazzling laser show at the historic Sindhudurg fort. During the day, in the country’s military ports, warships are very available for visiting.

International Almanac article from the December 3, 2023 edition of BiblioMonde

Serena Hoyles

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