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Ambassador's speech at the Commissioning of INS Jalashwa

Norfolk, VA
June 22, 2007 

Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Vice Admiral John Morgan, Jr.,
Deputy Commander, Fleet Forces Command, Vice Admiral Melvin Williams, Jr.,
Captain Ahluwalia,
Ladies & Gentlemen,

It is a great privilege and an honour for my wife, Kalpana, and me to join you this morning for the commissioning of the INS Jalashwa, formerly the USS Trenton. All of us recognize the deep significance of the transfer of this ship to the Indian Navy, first and foremost, as a symbol of the growing partnership in the field of defence between India and the United States. 

In June 2005, India and the United States signed a historic defence framework document at the level of their Defence Ministers that captured the spirit and essence of the new stage of our defence cooperation. It reflected the converging security priorities and interests of both countries. In the context of a global partnership, the Defence Framework set out the common interests of both countries in maintaining security and stability, combating terrorism, protecting the free flow of commerce and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated materials, data and technologies. It also envisaged cooperation in the area of defence technology, industry, co-production, research & development and defence supplies. The commissioning of INS Jalashwa is a manifestation as well as a harbinger of this dimension of our cooperation. It is also a reflection of the trust and long-term commitment that both sides bring to this relationship.

The INS Jalashwa will shortly be part of a robust naval tradition. From a modest beginning of 33 antiquated vessels in 1947, the Indian Navy has grown into a modern and forward looking fleet defending India’s maritime interests, cooperating with the navies of other countries and underpinning India’s international commitments, obligations and responsibilities. India has a coastline of more than 7,500 kilometers and far-flung island territories astride vital sea links and trade routes. We also have an exclusive economic zone of more than 2.2 million square kilometers. When countries of the Indian Ocean were devastated by the tsunami, the Indian Navy was uniquely placed to mobilize itself immediately to offer humanitarian assistance and succor to the affected people in our neighbouring countries. The Indian Navy also joined hands with its US and other counterparts in expanding the scope of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. 

India has an ancient and well-known maritime tradition. There is a recorded history of more than 2000 years of sea trade from the western and eastern coasts of India to as far as the Middle-East as well as East Asia. Whether it was Shivaji’s Maratha fleet or the naval strength of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, we have always been conscious of the vital need for a strong maritime defence. Hundreds of ships have been built in India some of which have been intimately connected with great historic moments. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking that ceded Hong Kong to the British was signed on board the HMS Cornwallis. The US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, was composed on board HMS Minden, another vessel built in India. 

The US and Indian Navies now conduct regular exercises together in a bilateral and multilateral framework. The Malabar series of joint India-US exercises have been progressively widened in scope and depth over the years. Similarly enhanced levels of interaction can be seen between the Armies and Air Forces of our two countries. I am confident that the INS Jalashwa will become part of this growing interaction and connection between the Indian and US Armed Forces. 

In commissioning INS Jalashwa today, I would like to pay a tribute to the dedicated work of Indian and US personnel to prepare this ship for a new life as part of Indian Navy. For the sailors, technicians and workers who have toiled day and night in giving this ship a new lease of life, this work has been an opportunity to get to know each other better and build close personal ties. I particularly congratulate Captain Ahluwalia and his team for their hard work and wish them fair winds and following seas. 
Jai Hind.

Ambassador’s brief comments after commissioning Jalashwa

During a brief media inter-action after the commissioning ceremony, in response to a question, Ambassador Sen said that the occasion was notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, INS Jalashwa was the first ship procured from the United States for the Indian Navy. Secondly, it was also the first Landing Platform Dock vessel in the Indian Navy, capable of transporting a battalion of troops, with heavy equipment, for force projection and dealing with emergent situations. Thirdly, it was ideally equipped for emergency relief operations. Finally, the ship, together with its helicopters on board and other armaments, had the ability not only to cater to its own security but also to provide technical and logistical support to sister ships and play a coordinating role during operations.