By Arun Kumar, IANS
Norfolk (US) : Indian Navy's first ever acquisition of a US warship reflects the converging security priorities and interests of the two countries, said the Indian Ambassador to the US Ronen Sen as he commissioned India's second largest ship.
First and foremost it symbolised the growing partnership between the two countries in the field of defence, he said Friday commissioning an old US warhorse, the USS Trenton into the Indian Navy as INS Jalashwa (river horse or hippopotamus in Sanskrit).
The colourful commissioning ceremony at a US naval base at Norfolk in Virginia, about 230 km from Washington, began with over 300 sailors and officers of this first of its class ship to be inducted into the Indian Navy, presenting a guard of honour to the ambassador.
With gross tonnage of 16,900 tonnes, it is Indian Navy's second largest combat platform after the aircraft carrier Viraat.
Then as the ship's commander, Captain B.S. Ahluwalia read the commissioning warrant from the chief of naval staff Admiral Arun Prakash, dozens of red, white, yellow and black flags representing the colours of the ship went up over the 173-metre long and 32-metre wide ship's flight deck – the size of two tennis courts.
Ambassador Sen and wife Kalpana went up to inspect the ship that has a well deck the size of two basketball courts in the aft section. They broke a few coconuts on the hull of the ship to end the ceremony with a traditional Indian touch.
The commissioning ceremony was also attended by Indian Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral John Morgan, Jr., US Deputy Commander (Fleet Forces Command) Vice Admiral Melvin Williams, and the Indian naval attachÃ© Commodore P. Murugesan.
In his address, Sen recalled that in June 2005, India and the US signed a historic defence framework document at the level of their defence ministers that captured the spirit and essence of the new stage of defence cooperation.
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 and 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," he said.
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 the 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," Sen said.
With this acquisition, India joins a select group of nations operating a Landing Platform Dock (LPD), giving it enhanced capability to move troops and equipment to greater distances in furtherance of its maritime interests.