Thursday, June 13, 2024

Navy Day 2023: The Indian Navy’s Greatness Warrants the Title of ‘Admiral of the Fleet,’ while the Indian Army has a Field Marshal and the Indian Air Force has a Marshal

By Staff Correspondent

The cruel denial of the title “Admiral of the Fleet” to the Indian Navy and its then-Commander, who skillfully planned and carried out Operation Trident on the evening of December 4, 1971, recording the only victory in the annals of maritime warfare, continues to pain naval veterans as India celebrated the 51st anniversary of the navy’s resounding victory in the 1971 War, which was orchestrated through Operation Trident and led by the outstanding Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral SM Nanda.
“Field Marshal” was the title bestowed upon Sam Manekshaw MC, who was the Chief of Army Staff at the time. The Indian Navy is the only service that, despite 51 years of naval war victory in 1971, still waits to be named the most deserving “Admiral of the Fleet,” despite the remarkable contributions made by the Indian Navy under the fearless and resolute leadership of Admiral Nanda. Air Marshal Arjan Singh was named “Marshal of the Indian Air Force.”


By giving the Indian Navy this recognition, we can make sure that Admiral Nanda’s legacy will continue to inspire and guide present and future generations of naval officers, motivating them to maintain the highest calibre of professionalism and commitment in the defence of their country’s sovereignty.
Following his appointment as the nation’s fleet Chief in 1970, when the fleet was already in decline, Charles Nanda, then the Commandant of the Navy (CNS), threw himself into war preparations with the goal of launching an immediate, decisive, and daring attack on the enemy’s backbone. When the Indian Navy sank at Karachi Port on December 4, 1971, the whole globe was in a state of shock and amazement. The fleet of Admiral Nanda, a respected naval officer and master tactician, enabled this amazing achievement.
Pakistan began an unprovoked attack on Indian airfields on December 3, 1971. India had no alternative but to respond with determined force to the challenges posed by both West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Admiral Nanda was furious as hell. It was now necessary to act quickly and decisively. Rolling up his sleeves, the great Admiral gave the enemies a lesson in style. Larger warships hauled the missile boats to Karachi. The assault on Karachi Port demonstrated the Indian Navy’s strategic might and resolve under Charles Nanda’s outstanding command.
Admiral Nanda and his crew spent many hours planning what would turn out to be one of the most successful attacks in the history of modern naval warfare in the strategy room at the Indian Naval Headquarters. He determined that by attacking the harbour at Karachi, the Pakistani Navy would be effectively shut off from the west by a blockade.
Equipped with heavy weaponry, the navy launched an assault on Karachi Port on December 4th, 1971, which not only secured India’s victory in the bloody conflict with Pakistan. INS Nirghat, INS Nipat, and INS Veer, three Vidyut-class missiles, were already stationed at Okha, Gujarat, and the fleet was expanded to equip the missile ships with four Styx missiles apiece. A fleet tanker and two Arnala class submarine corvettes, INS Kiltan and INS Katchall, were added to the fleet in addition to these.
Admiral Nanda’s brainchild, Operation Trident, which lasted less than 30 minutes, left a path of destruction and sent shudders down the spine of the Pakistani establishment. Karachi Port burned for seven days straight. With no Indian deaths, it demonstrated the strategic might and resolve of the Indian Navy, then led by the outstanding Charles Nanda, popularly known as the CNS.
The destroyer PNS Shah Jahan, the adjutant-class minesweeper PNS Muhafiz, the battle-class destroyer PNS Khaibar, and the munitions carrier Venus Challenger were all lost and sunk during the valiant Operation Trident in 1971, the only war in which the Indian Navy participated. For seven days the Karachi Port burned. Admiral Nanda, also known as Charles Nanda, masterminded Operation Python, a lethal operation that proved to be the final nail in the coffin of the Pakistani establishment and resulted in the foundation of Bangladesh from the former East Pakistan.
Will the government bring back the Indian Navy’s former glory?
Given the enormous efforts made by the then-CNS to tip the balance in favour of India during the 1971 war, Admiral Nanda’s appointment to the title of “Admiral of the Fleet” will always highlight his remarkable leadership skills, exceptional aptitude, and strategic vision as a naval commander.
All former naval personnel agree that Admiral Nanda’s bold, proactive leadership skillfully restructured the Indian Navy to bravely meet the challenges ahead. Charles Nanda was an exceptional strategist and visionary who was an expert in electronic warfare. They lament that Admiral Nanda, and the Indian Navy did not receive the proper acknowledgment from the nation’s leadership.
51 years later, however, the greatest naval missile confrontation in maritime history reveals how seldom force-on-force naval warfare had been since World War II, despite then-Naval Chief Admiral Nanda’s supreme and strategic leadership.
Admiral Nanda accomplished remarkable feats that had never been done before. The Russians were astounded by the victory since it was so unexpected and decisive. Admiral of the Heroic Fleet of the Soviet Union (Glavkom) Gorshkov expressed his surprise and promptness to Admiral Nanda over his incredible victory, saying, “My Great Indian friends have achieved the impossible.”
Even the US Admiral, Admiral USN (Retd), acknowledged this in his memoir “ON WATCH,” written by Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr.: “To Admiral SM Nanda who recognised the secret, in 1971, to preventing catastrophe! with decency!” During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, India was intimidated by the US Seventh Fleet under the command of Admiral Zumwalt, the US Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations.
In a letter dated December 6, 1989, Admiral Zumwalt gave Admiral Nanda an engraved copy of his book “ON WATCH,” mentioning that Admiral Nanda, who is now retired, had given his ships instructions to “invite their captains onboard for a drink” when they encountered US Navy ships in India at the time.
It remains to be seen whether the current government will award the Indian Navy the title of “Admiral of the Fleet” and the admiration of Russian and American admirals for their valiant actions during and after the 1971 War. Admiral Nanda is the person who gave the Indian Navy its rightful place in the annals of both national and international maritime history.

Excerpts & images provided by Col. Anil Bhat (r)


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