INS Viraat: Two ex-chiefs of Indian Navy confirm PM Modi’s claim baseless
Four officers of Indian Navy, two of whom retired as Admirals, have now come forward to say that PM Modi made a false and tasteless claim that Rajiv Gandhi used an aircraft carrier as private taxi
Two former chiefs of the Indian Navy and two retired Vice Admirals have also come forward to call the Prime Minister’s bluff on the INS Viraat incident.
In a statement issued on Thursday Admiral (Rtd) Ramdas, speaking on behalf of Admiral (Rtd) Arun Prakash and Vice Admirals (Rtd) Vinod Pasricha and Madanjit Singh, described Narendra Modi’s claim that late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had used the aircraft carrier INS Viraat as a private taxi as incorrect.
All these officers were part of the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy in 1987 barring Admiral Ramdas, who was then the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Naval Command based at Cochin.
Vice Admiral (Retd) Pasricha was then the Commanding Officer of INS Viraat. Admiral (Rtd) Arun Prakash was then commanding Indian Navy Ship INS Vindhyagiri, which was accompanying INS Viraat. Vice Admiral (Rtd) Madanjit Singh was then commanding INS Ganga.
The former chief of the Indian Navy states that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech yesterday appears to have relied on a report published in a newsmagazine. But the sequence of events recalled by the officers who were present, is somewhat different.
It is incorrect to suggest that Rajiv Gandhi had commandeered the aircraft carrier INS Viraat for a private cruise over 10 days or that the aircraft carrier hosted his in-laws and relatives of his wife.
The statement confirms what other naval officers have already pointed out:
- Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs Gandhi embarked on board INS Viraat off Trivandrum en route Lakshadweep.
- The Prime Minister was at Trivandrum as chief guest for the National Games prize distribution.
- He was going to Lakshadweep on official duty, to chair a meeting of IDA (Islands Development Authority) .
- There were no foreigners with them.
- Four other ships were with INS Viraat as part of Fleet Exercises.
- Admiral (Rtd) Ramdas , then Flag officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command, based in Cochin, also boarded INS Viraat.
- As FoC in C, Admiral (Rtd) Ramdas hosted a dinner for the Prime Minister and his wife on board INS Viraat.
- There were no other parties held on board INS Viraat or for that matter any other ship in our fleet during that time.
The Prime Minister is authorised to travel along with his spouse on official duties, the statement points out. The former Naval Chief says that Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi went ashore by a helicopter and no other member of the family was with them.
The naval exercise in the Arabian Sea at that time of the year had been planned much in advance in the yearly exercise programme, confirms the former chief of the Indian Navy.
“This was an opportunity for the officers and men to interact with the Prime Minister. He addressed the men and had ‘bada khana’ as per Naval custom,” the statement states before adding, “I then hosted a dinner for the Prime Minister that night. And there is a photograph to confirm this.”