INDIA’S 12th NAVAL CHIEF ADMIRAL J G NADKARNI -A NAVIGATOR PAR EXCELLENCE & AN OPERATIONAL FLEET COMMANDER BREATHED HIS LAST BY THE SEA SHORE —–IDF SALUTES YOU SIR — -RIP SIR !

Ranjit B Rai 

Admiral  Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni PVSM NM AVSM was born on 5th Dec, 1931 in Bombay and passed away after an illness in INHS Asvini in Mumbai on 2nd July, 2018. 

He was accorded military honours in his home town Pune. His wife Vimal a  kind lady, pre-deceased him and bore an impaired eyesight with dignity, supported by her husband. They are  survived by  Radm Ravindra Nadkarni who is  following in  his father’s footsteps to serve the nation at sea,  and  is currently the Chief of Staff in the Southern Naval Command. Vijay the elder  is  settled in USA. IDF knew the fine courteous boys when he served the Admiral , and condoles with their families on behalf of those  who knew the Nadkarnis. 

JGN  schooled in Bombay and his  calling was the sea  Every time he viewed the ‘waves’ from Marine Drive. At 15, he joined the Merchant Marine Training Ship Dufferin in 1946, under  Captain Sir Digby- Beste and completed what is now a BSc (Nautical Science)  course with distinction in December 1948, and  applied to join the Royal Indian Navy (RIN). The Navy was looking for Ex Dufferinites with potential.

 

RD Katari (No1), SG Karmarkar MBE ((No 6) of first batch, BS  Soman second batch from Dufferin  among others rose, to become Admirals and took part in World War 2. IDF served as Flag Lt to Admirals Soman and Karmarkar and learnt of  their exploits in the war. They felt, because of the RIN Mutiny in 1946, their actions of valour were not included in the official history of the Royal Navy. Some  actions have been randomly  listed in Timeless Wake, by Cmde Johnson thanks to Admirals Awati and Nadkarni founders of the Maritime History Society. Thank you Sirs. When India is a big maritime power you will be remembered !

 

Cadet JGN  proceeded to UK for  four months basics  in Dartmouth and topped the list. He  then  spent time  on HMS Devonshire, and   Royal Navy’s  operational warships (1949 -50) as a Midshipman  a rank with  no responsibility but are entrusted with big tasks and watched at sea, like pilots are watched by QFIs. That is training. A plethora of Indian naval officers and men were in UK standing by ships and in training. They dated  and learned to dance with willing  girls. See Photo Farewell in Birkenhead.

 

This was the pattern of training, that this writer followed in Bombay,  till pressure to be equated with the Army and Air Force for promotions ensured the one year Midshipman sea time was cut to six months in 1974. Dating is frowned upon by RSS  today.  

 

This writer well  understands this, as he was enrolled in the  RSS at age 8 by his Dad, merely to do shakas in Karol Bagh and enjoy the free samosa after and recalls the arrest  and  a night spent in the Daryagang Police Station in 1948, when RSS was banned. RSS  allies VHP and Bajrang Dal are  political vote power for the BJP who had promised to Indianise minorities, as if they were not Indians before. They are strong followers of God Ram, but Lee Kuan Yew felt religion and politics must not mix as a dangerous brew, but brews are welcomed for power.

 

In the Navy a  young Executive Sub Lt is expected to gain a Watch Keeping Certificate, and having crossed that big milestone, he is qualified to command forever,  keep watch on any  ship independently at sea and in harbor and  has all the powers that a Captain has while on watch. This requires a strong grounding and training  at sea, that JGN and that generation imbibed during long sea training stints.

 

Today Indian Navy is employing aging make shift  OPVs for training and some on sailing ships, claiming it is a more computer work Navy. Old timers looked to the Stars and Sun, still there. Sadly ABG which won the contract for three Training ships a  decade ago went bankrupt. MOD has lost money and a new RFI has been issued.

 

 Nadkarni like many  in UK  at that time proudly witnessed the acquisition of 7,000 ton  INS  Delhi  with  6 inch guns in 1948, which  sailed to India from UK  under the command of Capt AK Chaterjee with 50 officers and 650 ratings(now called Sailors). Lt Cdr SM Nanda was the First Lt. Later JGN was Navigator on Delhi under Capt N Krishnan in Junagad Diu ops and earned a name, as he  did the  Long ND course at HMS Dryad in Gosport UK with distinction, and had sailed  on the Hunt class frigate HMIS Ganga (HMS Chiddingfold) in 1953  under D 22 Godavari(  Ex HMS Bedale) and HMIS Gomati( HMS Lamerton).

 

The three Hunt class ships and three R class destroyers with lethal  torpedoes were taken on lease and  converted into sales against  War repatriations, and arrears were accounted for by Mr JJ Jhirad whose son David and writer were classmates.

 

The list of second hand ships  inducted  included, INS Mysore(1957  Capt SM Nanda)  and Vikrant (1961 Capt BS Mahindroo) with Sea Hawk jet fighters and French Alize ASW planes with ARRAR EW system. QFI Lt Cdr RH Tahiliani   was Little F. The three new Brahmaputras , three ASW  Khukris  and two Talwar frigates  with dashing Captains and crews followed with Soviet ships and Foxtrot submarines with hardcore professionals. Time magazine pictured the rising Indian  Navy on its cover. Those were proud days !

 

This writer recalls, as a Flag Lt to FOCIF Radm BS Soman,  was   ordered to sail  on INS Beas with a Customs team and his Chief Steward  to  200 nautical miles from Bombay  in Nov  1961 and a letter for Capt Mahindroo  to ensure the 900 officers and sailors with shopping  goods and even cars in hangars legally allowed in transfer of residence were cleared, so that Pandit Nehru could embark with CNS Vice Admiral RD Katari and FOCIF Soman on berthing at Ballard Pier at Bombay in 1961. IDF slept a night in the vacant Admiral’s cabin and saw Bombayites rock that day as she sailed past the Taj which served free Vikrant Sandwiches in the Green Lounge thanks to a JRD who loved aviation !

 

 It is these 800 hardcore, many hockey playing Anglo Indian Executive and Technical officers and artificers  and 3000 sailors , who imbibed  experience in ship building, trials and  running ships on passages after clearance  by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) many graded better than RN standards, that made it possible to transform  the Indian Navy  from a buyers Navy to a Builder’s Navy in 20 years.

 

This nugget  of an analysis by IDF  has not been further researched, as many are no more with us  to tell us the tale, like PM Vajpayee is unable to tell much. And today one sees,  the Army and Air Force are struggling  to Make hardware in India. Their  LCA and Arjun tanks stutter after three decades. It  is not DPPs that make ships but the experience and exposure, and  today Navy can guide the sister services by opening up. But Inter Service rivalry is like a calm sea with rough waters below, and a Radm Monty Khanna has expressed this and RM is upset he exposed it in uniform. She was also surprised that a maiden Krivack  ship make in India costs more to build in GSL than Russia. Who is guiding her ?

 

As related JGN served on INS Delhi under Captain Krishnan as a navigator par excellence in the Junagad Diu operations and  Joint Exercises (JET)  with RN, RAN, RZN and PN. In formative years Indian Navy exercised with Pakistan Navy too. Both Navies’s officers knew each other and sipped together and met in  Bon Hommie except on the hockey field in Trincomalee, when hockey sticks and gallis flew at each other ! IDF remembers the flowery urdu of late Capt Mulla MVC.

 

This writer as a Cadet on INS Tir had biryani and Muree beer lunch  on PNS Tippu Sultan in Trinco harbor in 1958  invited by Lt Cdr Iftikar Ahmed (Iffy)EO who studied in Harcourt  Butler with Adm Tony Jain who also joined Dufferin, and my uncle in the 1940s. This writer wrote an Intelligence Report on orders by a fine XO Navigator Lt Cdr HML Saxena who IDF served as XO on INS Cauvery.  Iftikar Sir helped with the Int Report as he had read the INT guidelines CNO on the subject common to both navies. IDF  suspects that’s why IDF became Director of Intelligence in 1986, for that sin, IDF calls accidental training on Int when some one may have written I understand PN ships.

 

Few appreciate the Pakistan Navy also has such beginnings and has begun Make in Pakistan with French, Chinese and Turkish help, but it is economy and political support   that both Navies lack in proportions. Both India and Pakistan have Geographic Maritime Attributes that USA and China seek respectively. That is the maritime game Indian Navy is trusted  with today and JGN or the other Fleet Commander IDF served Adm Subimal Mukherjee a Communicator would have discussed.

 

On retirement JGN wrote often and one thread was build more ships and submarines not carriers at that time ! Sir you are right as third aircraft carrier is slowed so now 12  P8is are our ships with latest Mk 84 Harpoons and  Mk 48 Torpedoes.

 

 JGN   went on to command INS Talwar (1968) with Elan and INS Delhi as  Senior Officer First Training Squadron (TS 1), his love and IDF learnt a lot from him and Karmarkar in long stints under them.

 

Admiral JGN attended  DSSC, US   Naval War College  Rhode Island and NDC and  was Senior Directing Staff (SDS)  in NDC on promotion to Rear Admiral. In 1980 he became the Western Fleet Commander. The fleet clocked more days at sea exercising than in harbor in his 14 months with visits East and to Jeddah and he worked up the Fleet with newly joined  Kashins INS Rajput and Rana and left a bench mark for Ranvijay and Ranjit to follow with record Practice Missile Firings and anti submarine exercises (CASEXes).

 

All four Rajputs   still serve  37 years after with BrahMos and Israeli AA Barak missiles, aging KA-28 ASW helicopters and Made in India Sonars and Torpedoes. JGN you have something to be proud of up there Sir !

 

This writer served as  JGN’s  Fleet Operations Officer (FOO)  in his lively 14 months and spent  hours  with him on the bridge or Ops Room. JGN   had a  style of looking casual with wit most times, but  seized any situation, trusted  his Captains to excel and this writer too  for the  14 months. We  did  not see a single day of disagreement and did debate. He loved photography and would shoot from a helicopter with Flag Lt Murgesan and  order FOO  to turn the ships in to the sun with a suggested course ! He loved movies and his late brother Dyneshwar Nadkarni was a well known art critic. JGN  took risks too and his boss Adm Awati had faith in his Fleet Commander.

 

The very  day INS Rana joined the fleet in 1981 from Suez Canal  JGN ordered it to fuel from INS Deepak in the rough monsoon seas off Bombay. While fueling Deepak’s lubber line jammed and the ships collided but the Yokohama took the hurt and burst like bombs and ships separated and Lady Luck smiled and both masts were saved. The damage was repaired  in Naval Dockyard with the help of the Soviet Specialists, who did not want  the collision reported. Admiral believed luck at sea was a quality for some and once quoted how  Nelson used his telescope on his blind eye, to avoid the Flag order and got away ! That was the day.

 

Capt Zadu a bright retired officer  visited Podgy  in the Fleet and  remarked, “each Kashin is two ships in one with duplicate missile systems forward and aft and each can operate independently.…….so in war they will do the best.”  Late Air Chief  ACM Katre very knowledgeable on EW came to sea on the Flagship  INS Rajput for a day but was so impressed with the ships as a learning experience, he extended his stay to two days, and IDF invited him to what became a  spirited evening at sea in the wardroom ! Few know that the Captain and Admiral eat alone in their cabins and are not members of the Wardroom. JGN in any case was  a teetotaler and took  an odd sip of Pims, and asked IDF to join in elbow lifting with the Air Chief.

 

After a term as  Chief of Personnel called the Chief of Power  in Delhi and  FOC-in- C East Nadkarni  became the Navy’s Vice Chief of Naval Staff  under Adm RH Tahiliani. Earlier as  the Defence Counsel for  Capt  Tahiliani who was Court Martialed for grounding INS Vikrant in Goa, Nadkarni ensured  Tahiliani’s defence and he  was fully absolved. Both  became close friends and in thinking as both were from US Naval War College, and wanted to Amercanise the Navy.

 

This writer was DNI 1986 -88 under the duo   for Op Brass Tacks, Khalistan imbroglio and in Op  Pawan, and with others can take credit no  ship or Naval personnel were  touched by LTTE, and made two incognito trips to Sri Lanka.  That period also saw  Navy placing orders  and  bust it’s budget under PM and RM Rajiv Gandhi and RRM Arun Singh the man who knows much.

 

In the Navy the Vice Chief is in charge of budget (money)  and procurement, not the Deputy Chief as in Air Force and Army. Navy works better to this writer’s mind and MOD  has never realized such abnormalities, direly needed for correction what NSA is trying in DPC called Resource and Strategic Planning. All three services have different Regulations and that needs change before Theatre Commands

 

 On promotion  to Admiral as CNS,  Nadkarni became the 10th Indian to occupy the big white office in room number 191 of South Block from 1st December, 1987 to 30th November, 1990  which first saw  two British occupants Admirals Sir Charles Pizey(1955) and Sir Stephen Carlill(Jul 1955 to Jul 1958) when Vice Admiral RD Katari took over (1958 to 1962).

 

Admiral JG Nadkarni again  had a stroke of luck to become CNS. He  was due to retire at 58. It was in the air that the  next senior most Vice Admiral Tony Jain, an outstanding officer of the 1st Course JSW would take over the telescope from Tahiliani. Hence Government accepted Navy’s proposal and nominated Nadkarni to become  the First CMD of JNPT, but RBI Governor Dr Manmohan Singh asked Government to recall Dr RN Malhotra from World Bank to take over RBI.

 

Malhotra agreed  if his wife Anna India’s first woman IAS officer  from Tamil Nadu could be fitted in Bombay—-She became JNPT’s first CMD and did a Man’s job. This writer met his daughter at their Carmichael Road house so followed the events. Nadkarni got an extension  to become CNS. Lady luck smiles on the deserving.

 

 That one change  contributed to  Nadkarni appointing a US trained  officer junior    to Soviet trained  Radm Bhagwat   to command the Western Fleet, that Tahiliani had promised. Bhagwat who IDF calls ‘Navy’s  Kejriwal’  filed a 412 paged Writ Petition against CNS Nadkarni and others and the  long battle that followed  led to  Admiral  L Ramdas succeeding Nadkarni as CNS and the rise of  Bhagwat who later became CNS but was dismissed under the draconian Article 311 of the Constitution. Details are in the book, Adm Bhagwat-Sacked or Sunk (Manas) IBSN 81-7049-114-2  which was banned by RM George Fernandes and many copies sold as Raddi. Its called bad luck,  as George had dictated another  to write An Admirals Fall about Bhagwat and Services bought 700 copies, and were brain washed but many foreign DNIs and DAs reviewed Sacked or Sunk  for their HQs  as it mentions actions in many nations’s navies and how Adm Booda CNO of US Navy a non NWC USA  lower deck appointee was hounded by NWC alumina. They inserted a derogatory  piece in Time magazine  and on  one lunch day,   he took a pistol home and shot himself. I learnt this when I went to Annapolis  for a visit.

 

Finally on a personal note  with two others this writer owes Adm Nadkarni  gratitude. NHQ-COP  Adm Gadhoke issued a letter and later cancelled it stating,  ‘Outstanding Officers who do not make Flag Rank would be appointed abroad’. Term mate Bobby Bhandoola went to DC, 10th course George Kailath to London and this writer to Singapore as DA in Commodore ranks and new chapters opened for all three and their children. Its called luck !  India’s history  comes alive in missions abroad where much of history is concealed in files if anyone has patience to look into,  and link up with the jaggedly arranged files in the Achieves in Janpath. This writer has written history of Indian Navy in a chapter — 100 years Dreadnought To Daring Rs 4000 so only NWC Goa has a copy. IN is the daughter Navy of the RN is IDF view !

 

VMT Podgy Sir, RIP you were kind to me and many. You did your duty with many kindnesses, that many remember, as much as your professionalism and a rare quality in India called Loyalty. Bhagwat episode should be studied by future generations, never to repeat Sir. Shan Na Varuna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply