It will be my endeavour to ensure to pull on the oars together and keeping my hands on the tiller to ensure that we run an efficient, taut and a happy navy,” said the new Naval Chief Admiral Robin Dhowan on 17 April 2014, taking over from his predecessor, Admiral D.K. Joshi, 50 days after the latter resigned owning moral responsibility following a series of mishaps.
Stating that his top priority was avoid accidents, he stressed that in future all ranks will follow rules / standard operating procedures and not resort to taking any shortcuts which can lead to the mishaps.
A series of accidents in the recent past have taken quite a toll of men and materials. In the last ten months, the Navy suffered 14 mishaps including two involving submarines. The first major mishap took place in August 2013, which resulted in the sinking of the INS Sindhurakshak and killing of all 18 personnel on board. The second submarine mishap on board INS Sindhuratna occurred on February 26, which took the lives of two officers and led to the resignation of Joshi as Chief of Naval Staff. Superseding C-in-C, Western Naval Command (WNC) Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha by appointing Dhowan as the Joshi’s successor, the government broke its principle of going by seniority as the defence ministry reportedly felt Sinha should be blamed for the recent series of warship mishaps, which happened under the WNC.
“Sailors and commands will have to work together to take the force forward. Till the time we don’t work together as a team and carry out our daily tasks and face challenges, we would not be able to become a top-class Navy, That is why, our priority would be that we will work as a team, whether it is a sailor or the commands, take forward the navy and face the challenges in the maritime domain”, Dhowan said.
Listing his priorities for Indian Navy, he said his first priority area would be to ensure that the Navy is combat ready to meet all the challenges at all times. Second is to ensure that our men and officers are trained professionally and adequately. We need to ensure that we have a good leadership system in place which ensures they carry out leadership aspects, they show commitment to the Navy and the nation, compassion towards the men and women they lead. Credibility as a professional to ensure that every individual in the Navy carries out his duties encompassing all this would be the requirements of integrity and every individual’s credibility is beyond doubt,” Dhowan said.
He said the future of Indian Navy is based on self-reliance and indigenization and currently we have 45 submarines and warships under construction in the country.
Having said as much as he has to the media just after taking over, he has an indeed challenging tenure of two odd years. Because as brought out in this column of the previous Salute, Indian Navy’s numbers of personnel and vessels are at an all time low even as its operational commitments increased over the past decade in an extensive theatre straddling the Indian Ocean and with not only terrorism but also piracy on high seas having shot up. Besides, the holdings of two inimical nuclear armed neighbours together in cahoots, with their aims and designs amount to a threat much more and wider than earlier. Whichever government headed by whoever, will have to act with alacrity to kick start and maintain a fast-tracked process to bring Indian Navy on an even keel. Sad to reiterate and ironic that the vital national maritime force was neglected at a time when it most needs refits, re-equipping/ new acquisitions and an increase in manpower, it is completely left in the lurch.