Tassled and garlanded, India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant II, was launched on Monday 12th August by the Defence Minister’s wife. In keeping with Indian tradition, she marked the occasion by throwing a coconut at the ship’s hull.
Alongside Mr and Mrs AK Antony, the procession of dignitaries at Cochin shipyard included the head of the Indian Navy and the minister for shipping.
If it was a building instead of a ship, INS Vikrant II would be the London 2012 Aquatics Centre: both structures follow the same wave form. Fish shapes for people to swim and sail in; designed to show that athletes, sailors, all of us are responding to nature nowadays rather than overriding it.
How different is the new Vikrant from its eponymous predecessor? Built on the wartime Tyne as HMS Hercules, laid up for 15 years, then bought off-the-peg and re-named by the Indian Navy. Nice bit of schmutter for posing against Pakistan, the man from the Admiralty must have said. Feel the width of this flight deck.
Back in the days when warships were all corners and angles (not curves and waves), and ratings stood to attention like a heap of iron filings.
‘Vikrant’ meaning the one who steps forward. To boldly go.
On Monday, members of Vikrant II’s launch party must have felt the world opening up to them; rewarding India’s audacity. Only four other countries – France, Russia, UK and USA – currently have this capability. We’re already in the Top Five!
Only hours later, 18 Indian sailors died in the confined spaces of an Indian Navy submarine which exploded into flames in Mumbai Harbour. Minus his wife, the Defence Minister was obliged to go on TV to offer his condolences, duly echoed by the head of the navy.
Another memorable day, but on this occasion Monday’s ‘historic’ footage was running in reverse.