Taranginis Message

Updated: Apr 28 2004, 05:30am hrs
The sailing ship INS Taranginis circumnavigation and safe return home, after a tour of several countries around the world, is important not just because of its symbolism but more as a reminder of Indias maritime history and capability. Coming soon after such milestones as the creation of the Andaman & Nicobar command of the Indian Navy, the acquisition of the aircraft career Gorshkov and the inauguration of the Sagar Mala project of coastline connectivity and modernisation, it signals a new interest on the part of the policymakers in Indias maritime economy. INS Taranginis return home also coincided with the Indian Navys adoption of a new maritime doctrine that lays greater emphasis on the modernisation of our naval capability. There is no question that India had neglected both its naval defence capability and, more importantly, its commercial maritime capability. Having started a ship-building industry long before Korea, India saw itself being overtaken by many Asian countries both in ship-building and in port modernisation. The recent renewal of interest in port modernisation, ship-building, improved coast guard and naval capability also reflects a renewed interest in foreign trade, ocean resources and the importance of sea lanes of communication.

INS Taranginis adventures should rekindle interest of the general public in Indias historic maritime capabilities and enable policymakers and media to understand that while New Delhi may be landlocked and located in the foothills of the Himalayas, Indias more dynamic regions are all along the coast and have been part of the coasts global economy. It is not a coincidence that the Indian Ocean is the only ocean in the world named after a people. The recent spurt in maritime historiography, best epitomised by the spectacular work of historians like Sanjay Subrahmanyam, shows that the Indian sub-continent was actively engaged with the global economy long before Europeans entered the waters around it and that Indians have had a proud maritime record, more often benign in intent and impact. The sea was the route to trade and spread ideas rather than the conquest of nations and peoples. While India will continue to remain a benign maritime power, the huge increase in maritime trade in the Indian Ocean region, with goods and energy resources flowing both ways across the ocean, has increased Indias profile as a guarantor of peace, security and stability of commerce in the region. The spate of naval exercises India is conducting with a range of seafaring powers between the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Malacca testifies to the international acceptance of Indias role and responsibilities in the region.