Navy chief falls on his sword

Regrettably, Admiral Joshi’s resignation will remain nothing more than the honorable action of a morally upright and responsible professional.

Admiral Devender Kumar Joshi
Admiral Devender Kumar Joshi

The head of the Indian Navy, Admiral DK Joshi, resigned on Wednesday.

He submitted his resignation to the Government of India, ‘Taking moral responsibility for the accidents and incidents which have taken place during the past few months’, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defense.

The statement said that, “The Government has accepted the resignation of Admiral Joshi with immediate effect,” adding that, “The Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral RK Dhowan will be discharging the duties of officiating CNS, pending appointment of regular CNS.”

Many have acclaimed Joshi’s resignation, but it is important to question whether this, by itself, will stem the problems the navy has seen in the last year.

Media reports cite a litany of incidents and accidents, in which naval personnel have been projected as having failed in their professionalism.

The worst such incident was, of course, the sinking of the Kilo-class INS Sindhurakshak in August last year, in which 18 personnel lost their lives.

On Tuesday, a sister submarine, INS Sindhuratna suffered a fire onboard while submerged, after which seven personnel had to be airlifted to the INHS Ashwini. Another two personnel remain unaccounted.

But media has reported other incidents as well. COs have been removed.

And on Wednesday, the navy chief resigned his commission.

Naval officers have, understandably, found it difficult to explain this series of incidents without attributing it to a run of seriously bad luck.

It is safe to assume that everybody in the navy hasn’t been afflicted with chronic incompetence these past few months.

It has been claimed that the reportage of many incidents has increased recently with every minor mishap being blown out of proportion as part of a broadside in a battle of perception. And indeed, the thinking individual should read between the lines of the reportage. Some have called it a campaign of vilification aimed towards a specific objective.

Some point to the vintage of some of the vessels the navy sails on, with no sign of long pending replacements. An obvious lacunae is the much-delayed induction of new submarines. There is some truth in all of this.

As to the resignation of Admiral Joshi, there are many who’re saying, “The wrong guy resigned.”

They point fingers at the defense ministry bureaucracy and the political leadership for delaying acquisitions beyond decades. They reason that if anyone had to quit, it should have been those more directly responsible for these series of incidents, hinting at officers at the Western Naval Command.

There is some truth here, as well.

But besides being an act of super moral rectitude going by national standards, does Admiral Joshi’s resignation solve any of these problems?

Will it energize the defense ministry into concluding the cases of acquisition that have been subjected to the sloth of the ministry? Will additional heads roll, both in the ministry for holding up these cases and lower down the chain of command, where responsibility for these incidents actually lies? Will the navy be better prepared and more professional and competent for Joshi’s departure, say, five years from now?

Those celebrating his resignation might, perhaps, be able to answer.

Regrettably, Admiral Joshi’s resignation will remain nothing more than the honorable action of a morally upright and responsible professional. As much cannot be said about others.

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  1. StratPost Chellaney A lot more heads including that of Def Min Antony should have rolled; acceptance of Joshi’s resignation premature.

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