Admiral Vijai Singh Shekhawat
- Category: Chiefs of Naval Staff
- Published: Thursday, 30 October 2008 00:00
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Admiral Shekhawat has been a keen mountaineer having done the basic and advanced mountaineering courses from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. He was a member of the successful Annapurna III (24,858 feet) mountaineering expedition to Nepal in 1961 and has done extensive rock climbing in Wales, U.K. His present active sporting interest is tennis. After early sea training in frigates and cruisers as cadet and midshipman, he was commissioned on 01 July 1956 and held various assignments in fleet ships before being sent to U.K. in 1959 as 2nd Gunnery Officer for INS Talwar, and later, Navigating Officer on her return passage through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal. A pioneer of the submarine arm, Admiral Shekhawat did his basic submarine training in the U.K. in 1963-64 and then in the USSR in 1966-67. He has been the Executive and Commanding Officer of several submarines, commanded the submarine base and the 8th Submarine Squadron at Vizag and was Director of the Submarine Arm in 1975-77. He commissioned INS Kalvari (1967) and INS Karanj (1969) - two Foxtrot Class submarines - in the Baltic Sea and sailed them through the Atlantic Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope to India, the Suez Canal being closed after the Arab-Israel War of 1967.
Admiral Shekhawat attended the US Naval War College in Newport, USA in 1977-78 and subsequently commanded INS Himgiri from 1981-82. He was awarded the Vir Chakra for gallantry whilst in the command of INS Karanj during the 1971 Indo-Pak War, the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service in 1984 and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal in 1991 for exceptional services. He has had close association with the training of junior officers and was an instructor on board the Cadet and Midshipmen training vessels from 1957-59 and also at the National Defence Academy, Pune from 1961-63. He again served at the National Defence Academy from 1979-81 as Chief Instructor and Deputy Commandant. On promotion to Flag Rank in June 1984, Admiral Shekhawat served as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) at Naval HQ. He commanded the prestigious Western Fleet, the strike force of the Indian Navy during 1986-87, coinciding with the period of Operation Brasstacks, and was Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Area (FOMA) during 1987-88.
Promoted to Vice Admiral in August 1988, he was the Director General of the tri-service Defence Planning Staff until August 1990. From December 1990 to October 1992, he was the FOC-in-C of the Eastern Naval Command, with maritime defence responsibilities for the entire eastern seaboard and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. From November 1992 to September 1993, he was the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff (VCNS) and assumed the appointment of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) on 30 September 1993. His long years at sea have taken him to most countries of the Indian Ocean littoral and he is deeply interested in the economic and maritime developments in the region. Extensive reading and travel in South East Asia, East and West Africa, the Far East, the Arab countries, the erstwhile Soviet Union, Europe and the USA have given him a keen insight in to global geo-strategic issues. The Admiral and Mrs. Binu Shekhawat have two sons, the younger of whom is a pilot in the Indian Navy.