On Monday President, Ram Nath Kovind will take part in the Indian Navy’s 12th Presidential Fleet Review.
In simplest terms, it is the country’s President taking stock of the Navy’s capability. It showcases all types of ships and capabilities the Navy has. It takes place once under every President, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.
The President is taken on one of the Naval ships, which is called the President’s Yacht, to look at all the ships docked on one of the Naval ports. According to a statement by the Navy, the President’s Yacht this year “is an indigenously built Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel, INS Sumitra, which will lead the Presidential Column. The yacht will be distinguished by the Ashoka Emblem on her side and will fly the President’s Standard on the Mast”.
The President will be given a 21-gun salute before embarking on the yacht.
Do all naval ships participate?
No. The idea is to showcase not all the Navy’s ships, but every type of ship — and the kind of capabilities it has at that time. In Monday’s fleet review, which will take place in Vishakhapatnam, Kovind will review over 60 ships and submarines, and 55 aircraft, from the Navy and the Coast Guard.
His yacht will sail past 44 ships lined up at anchorage off Visakhapatnam, and there will be a combination of ships from the Indian Navy as well the Coast Guard, along with some vessels from the Shipping Corporation of India and the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
The review also includes merchant ships.
What else happens in the fleet review?
“In this most formal of naval ceremonials, each ship dressed in full regalia will salute the President as he passes. The President will also be reviewing the Indian Naval Air Arm in a display of spectacular fly-past by several helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. In the final stage of the review, a mobile column of warships and submarines will steam past the Presidential Yacht.” The Navy said.
The vessels will include the Navy’s latest acquisitions, and the events will include waterfront activities such as Parade of Sails, Search and Rescue Demonstration at Sea, Aerobatics by Hawk aircraft, and Water Para Jumps by the elite Marine Commandos.
All ships at anchorage will be dressed ceremoniously with various naval flags in full regalia. They have been illuminated from sunset to midnight on February 19 and 20.
As part of the Sail Parade activities, six ocean-going Indian Naval Sailing Vessels arrived at Visakhapatnam from Goa. These are part of Ocean Sailing Node at INS Mandovi at Goa.
How many of these reviews have been held?
There have been 11 President’s Fleet Reviews since Independence. The first was conducted in 1953, under Dr Rajendra Prasad. The next one was done not by the President but by the then Defence Minister, Y B Chavan, in 1964. Since then, it has been the President reviewing the fleet.
The longest gap between reviews was of 12 years — between 1989 (President R Venkatraman) and when 2001 (President K R Narayanan). The last one was done in 2016, under President Pranab Mukherjee.
The reviews in 2001 and 2016 were International Fleet Reviews, in which some vessels from other countries also participated. The Indian Navy too has participated in international fleet reviews in other countries, including Australia, America, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, and the UK.
In 1953, 25 warships, seven yard craft and one merchant ship had participated. In 1964, the number rose to 31 warships, nine merchant ships and 12 yard craft. Two years later, under President S Radhakrishnan, India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was part of the review.
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What is its significance?
It is one of the most important events for the Navy, which is essentially showing its allegiance and commitment to defending the country. It is a long-standing tradition followed by navies across the world, and according to Navy officials it is a strong bond that links seafarers of the world.
“Historically, a Fleet Review is an assembly of ships at a pre-designated place for the purpose of displaying loyalty and allegiance to the Sovereign and the state. In turn, the Sovereign, by reviewing the ships, reaffirms his faith in the fleet and its ability to defend the nation’s maritime interest,” a senior Navy official said.
The official said the review “was perhaps conceived as a show of naval might. Though it still has the same connotation, assembling of warships without any belligerent intentions is now the norm in modern times”.