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Jayant Ganpat Nadkarni was born on December 05, 1931 at Pune, Maharashtra. On completion of Cadets’ training at TS Dufferin at erstwhile Bombay he joined the Royal Indian Navy in March 1949.
As it was common those days, he too was deputed to United Kingdom (UK) to undergo basic training at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. On completion he was drafted for sea training on board the Training Cruiser HNS Devonshire and at other training establishments of the Royal Navy. During his initial training period itself he excelled in every aspect of naval training through sheer dint, hard work and determination and came to be recognized as a gifted Indian naval trainee.
There is a popular anecdote that when he was undergoing his initial training in UK that a Royal Navy Training Officer once called him, “Come here, you podgy little man!” From that time on “Podgy” became his fond nickname.
His special acumen was soon recognised, and he was selected to undergo prestigious specialisation course in Navigation and Direction in UK. During the specialization course his outstanding talent in navigation was acknowledged and he came to be recognized as an Ace Navigator. On his return to India he was the most sought-after Navigator. During Liberation of Goa operations, he was the Navigating Officer of Cruiser INS Delhi which was commanded by highly professional and hard task master Captain N Krishnan (later Vice Admiral). Then Lt Nadkarni through his outstanding talent and the art of navigation endeared himself to his Commanding Officer and for ever remained favourite of his Commanding Officer.
Vice Admiral MP Awati (Retired) had this to say in tribute, “He (Podgy) was an accomplished Navigator, who had a special touch for the Haven-Finding art, which skill I do not see since his (Nadkarni’s) days at sea as a captain in a ship or as the Commander, Western Fleet. No one, to my knowledge, has matched him in the past 50 years or more.Podgy’s quiet, self-effacing facade hid a steely determination to do right, always and every time, by his ships and men. He belongs to that immensely rare breed of men who display character and was looked up to by all his subordinates, equals and superiors for his almost puritanical professionalism.”
As a Commander he commanded old INS Talwar during 1968 with such distinction that his ship handling skills, command, and operations capabilities are still viewed with great admiration and awe. As a Captain he commanded old INS Delhi during 1976. The ship was sent to Naval Dockyard, Bombay for routine refit. Suddenly,Captain Nadkarni was ordered to sail INS Delhi with despatch to Cochin to embark essential equipment and proceed post haste to Maldives to oversee salvage of grounded Destroyer INS Godavari. That mission was called Operation Godavari Salvage; viz GODSAL. The operation was very complex, and safety of Godavari was in grave danger, since the ship was deeply embedded on the coral reef off Maldives and because of shallow depth pulling her out became a nightmare. The main concern of then Captain Nadkarni was that a naval warship could not be abandoned or allowed to sink in the international waters. Prestige of the Country was at peril.He steered GODSAL most deftly and adroitly to keep nation’s pride intact. He was awarded Naosena Medal for his spectacular achievement.
While he was Flag Officer Commanding, Western Fleet his prime focus was operational readiness of the Fleet ships. He was all for the traditional ways of charting the course, speed and position at sea by depending on astronomy and encouraged young officers to go back to basics of taking star-sights using Sextants.When embarked on Fleet Ships he will order Magnavox and such like modern navigation aides to be put away. He always encouraged his Captains to be bold and act with professional dint and pragmatism.
As he moved higher up the ladder his focus was on training, inculcating professionalism, human resource development, etc. As Chief Instructor (Navy) at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington he along with his core team revolutionalised the Staff Duties paradigms. As Chief of Personnel he single-handedly introduced and operationalised several unique and modern models for operational and strategic studies concepts. Many of the concepts introduced towards human resource development are still going strong and delivering benefits.
As the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command he infused novel doctrines to revitalise the Command to inch forward to its prima donna position as the second most important operational command of the Indian Navy.
Within a short span of time as the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff his contributions towards growth of the Indian Navy as a strategic Blue Water Navy were noteworthy. Obtaining sanction for acquisition of Viraat from UK in double quick time, sanction for leasing of Chakra, the first nuclear submarine from former USSR, obtaining Govt. sanctions for Project Seabird, Naval Academy at Ezhimala, etc.
He assumed the helm of Indian Navy on December 01, 1987 as the 14th Chief of the Naval Staff. Even when he had reached the pinnacle he remained simple, straight-forward. It was common to be surprised with the visit ofthe Chief of the Naval Staff in your office in South Block whistling and unannounced. Even his personal staff would wonder of his whereabouts in the South Block. Sometimes the search party would be launched, if some important calls for CNS were to be responded to.
During his watch as CNS a spectacular feat was accomplished with perfection through military intervention by all three servicesand the Indian Naval Ship diverted with alacrity to thwart the attempt by the mercenary’s coup in the Maldives during 1988. This singular intervention propelled the image of India as the emerging power, globally recognised and resultantly occupying the prime position on the cover of the Time Magazine.
In his tribute to Late Admiral Nadkarni, Admiral Arun Prakash, former CNS said, “This doughty Maratha Admiral, surely had the blood of Shivaji and Angre coursing through his veins; it showed in his principles, professionalism and a clear vision for the Indian Navy. Un-flamboyant and modest to a fault, he earned the Navy’s genuine respect and affection.”
Commodore C Uday Bhaskar (Retired) said this in his tribute, “Admiral Nadkarni who passed away last week was an able, down-to-earth Chief, who was never carried away by his rank or the number of stars on his Car. One recalls him as a young Commander, then Captain of the INS Talwar in 1968 and till the end he remained what he was – professional to the core, well-read, frugal, a dead-pan wit and a fair but firm in his conduct with subordinates; the traits that are becoming exception in the contemporary military milieu.”
Admiral Jayant Nadkarni was the proud recipient of Presidential awards of PVSM, AVSM, NM, VSM.
May his Blessed Soul rest in eternal peace.