Johannesburg: Indian Navy frigate INS Trishul departed from the South African port city of Durban on Saturday after impressing the local community with a range of activities designed to showcase India’s role in assisting the countries spanning the Indian Ocean.
The three-day goodwill tour marked several historic events, including the 30th anniversary of India-South Africa relations after a break of almost four decades due to apartheid.
The visit is also part of India’s ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of independence.
The visit also marked the incident 130 years ago on June 7, when young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi was thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg Station because he was in a compartment reserved for white passengers only.
The incident triggered his path to establishing Satyagraha; leading the fight against oppression in both South Africa and India, and eventually becoming the Mahatma.
“At a commemorative event in Pietermaritzburg on June 7, the ship’s band played some of the favourite bhajans of Mahatma Gandhi. The personnel of the ship also laid floral tributes at the plinth where Gandhiji was thrown out,” said Consul General for India in Durban Dr Thelma David.
“The City of Durban has had a very long history with India as a country. We want to appreciate and thank you for the contribution that India had made to free this city (from colonial and apartheid rule),” said Thabani Nyawose, Speaker of the eThekwini Municipality, as Durban is now known, at a reception for local leaders of the community aboard the ship.
“If you look at the history of our city, there are important contributions that have been made by Indians, who are both residents and citizens of the city, in building its economy and contributing to important sectors in building the city, the Speaker said.
“Not only the city of Durban has benefited from India. South Africa as a country has benefited. We want to thank you and your government for this,” Nyawose said.
Commenting on the theme of the INS Trishul visit, ‘Building bridges and friendships’, Nyawose said he liked it very much.
“This is the message that should be spread all over the globe. That’s what we want for countries, for cities, to build friendships. The City of Durban wants to partner with you to spread this message,” the Speaker said.
As part of its public outreach activities, the INS Trishul crew led by Captain Kapil Kaushik visited the Phoenix Youth Centre, where they made a donation of items for the local community projects of the Phoenix Child Welfare Association in conjunction with the local Consulate of India.
The INS Trishul band also delighted locals with a performance.
The crew then joined some 403 participants from India, the largest international contingent, who will engage in the annual Comrades Marathon between Pietermaritzburg and Durban on Sunday, in a walkathon.
A final public programme on Friday morning was a yoga event with a few locals joining the crew on the wharf where the ship was berthed as a precursor to the International Day of Yoga on June 21.
INS Trishul Commander, Captain Kapil Kaushik, thanked the South African Navy for making the port call possible, especially when the challenges had appeared to be “insurmountable”.
Kaushik said this was his second visit to Durban as he recalled his historic first visit and meeting with the late President Nelson Mandela.
“It was in April 1997. I visited Durban, (the naval base of) Simonstown and Cape Town. That was during the 75th anniversary of the South African Navy. What added to the historical moment was that the retreat was reviewed by His Excellency Nelson Mandela, the first president of (democratic) South Africa,” Kaushik said.
Kaushik said India and South Africa were “maritime neighbours” because they were joined by the Indian Ocean and were therefore “natural partners”.
“Part of this visit was professional interaction with the South African Navy to imbibe best practices and to learn from each other.
“I am confident that the partnership between the Indian and South African navies and also between the two countries will continue to grow in the years to come,” Kaushik said.