Imposing warships, multi-colored pennants and ramrod-straight men in white marked India's first International Fleet
Review (IFR) on Saturday, held on the west coast off Bombay. Destroyers, submarines and senior naval officers from 29 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Russia and Japan, took part in the goodwill pageant aimed at "building bridges of friendship".
Indian President K.R. Narayanan took the review, waving to the thousands of assembled sailors as he cruised past the columns of Indian and foreign ship
s. "This (IFR) is a magnificent demonstration by the navies of the world to build bridges of friendship among nations and symbolic of their desire to maintain peace and tranquility on the seas," Narayanan said in a speech.
The president said nations' independence and prosperity depended on the security of the seas, and the Indian navy
was committed to the international effort to combat piracy. Naval officers in spotless white doffed their caps from destroyers, submarines and patrol vessels as the presidential ship, which also had Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the navy chief and foreign dignitaries on board, sailed past.
The USS Cowpens played India's national anthem in honor of Narayanan.
"This is very impressive and the largest fleet review I've ever covered," said British photographer Chris Hockadag as he watched the review from an Indian naval minesweeper. More than 75 ships from countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Malaysia, South Africa, Kenya, Iran, Poland, Singapore and Thailand joined the festivities, held to celebrate India's completion of 50 years as a Republic. Fleet reviews are held regularly around the world, enabling countries to show off their naval strength while underlining their friendly ties with the host nation. - (Reuters)