Transcript of the lecture delivered by former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Arun Prakash, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM at the 16th edition of CPPR Quarterly Lecture Series, on the topic ‘India’s Security Challenges’, held on 15 October, 2019 at Kochi
The Indian Navy (IN) has an umbilical connection with the state of Kerala on two counts. First, since 1950, INS Venduruthy, on Willingdon Island, has been the alma mater of a very large proportion of IN personnel who receive their initial training in the ‘warfare schools’ located here. Second, thanks to the State government’s generous contribution of a large tract of land near Kannur; the grand Indian Naval Academy (INA) has been located at Ezhimala. Future generations of naval officers — not just of the Indian Navy, but also of many foreign countries — will emerge from the portals of the INA.
Quite apart from the IN connection, Kerala has seen an ancient maritime tradition going back 3–4 millennia when ports like Muziris/Kodungallur saw vigorous seaborne trade with Rome, Middle East and Africa. However, due to want of written historical records, this important aspect of our maritime heritage has faded from public memory.
In 1925, when the British geo-strategist Halford Mackinder declared that, ”…the leading seafaring races of antiquity came at all times from… the Aegean Sea”, it was Indian diplomat/historian, Sardar K M Panikkar who took exception and stated: “Perhaps Mackinder was thinking about the seafaring traditions of Europe. In terms of world history this statement is inaccurate. Millennia before seafaring developed in the limited Aegean waters, oceanic navigation had become common in peninsular India”.
According to Panikkar, it was on account of the predictable and cyclical SW and NE monsoon winds, which saw the world’s first oceanic sailing activity in the Indian Ocean — specifically the lands washed by the Arabian Sea. Unfortunately, for various reasons, India’s 3000-year old maritime glory went into rapid decline in the 9th & 10th centuries CE and oceanic trade passed into the hands of the Arabs.
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