Admiral Jayant Nadkarni was born on 5 December 1931 and joined the National Defence Academy (NDA). He was commissioned into the India Navy (IN) in 1949 and received the basic training at Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, training cruiser HMS Devonshire and other establishments of the Royal Navy. He was selected to undergo specialisation course in navigation and direction. On return to India, he was the most sought after navigator. His talent was acknowledged even in the UK.
Admiral Nadkarni served as navigating officer at INS Kothari and INS Rana. He had the unique distinction of commanding a ship in every rank from lieutenant to captain, a coast guard interceptor boat and a mine sweeper. He was a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington and completed training at the College of Naval Warfare (CNW), Karanja; and the National Defence College (NDC), New Delhi. He was a member of the tri-service sailing team that sailed onboard Indian Naval Sailing Vessel Samudra during her ‘round-the-world sailing expedition’ in 1988-89. An outstanding feat by him was the Operation Godavari Salvage. He was commanding officer of INS Delhi and was responsible for salvaging INS Godavari which had run aground on a reef near Maldives. There was no specialised salvage equipment or accurate charts. It was a complex operation as the ship was deeply embedded in the rock and the sea was shallow. The ship could not be abandoned in international waters to ensure the prestige of the navy. Captain Nadkarni managed to adroitly salvage the ship and sail to Mumbai with Indian pride intact.
He held key appointments of Command Plans Officer at Western Naval Command (WNC), Director Naval Intelligence WNC, Director of Naval Intelligence (Operations) at New Delhi, Chief Staff Officer (Operations) at WNC, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet and Chief of Personnel at Naval Headquarters. His intellectual excellence was well recognised in his tenures as Instructor Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, the College of Naval Warfare (CNW), Karanja; and the National Defence College New Delhi. As Chief Instructor (Navy) at the Staff College, his team revolutionised the staff duties paradigms.
Admiral Nadkarni took part in the war for liberation of Goa and the two Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971. He took over as Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) on 1 December 1987. During his tenure as CNS, the three Services carried out an operation to avert a mercenary coup in Maldives. His communication messages then are remembered and cited for brevity, clarity and resolve. He had his share of accidents at sea but he always encouraged his officers to sail. His advice to his captains was that the ships would always be safe in the harbour but that is not what the navy is meant to do. It was during his service as chief that the first nuclear- propelled submarine, INS Chakra, was inducted. It was obtained on lease from USSR. It was a major technological advance and was achieved in spite of limited budget for the navy.
Admiral Nadkarni was modest and down to earth chief. He was not carried away by his rank and was a professional to the core, well read, fair and firm to his colleagues. He had a fine sense of humour. Unflamboyant and modest to a fault, he earned the navy’s genuine respect and affection. He was never carried away by his rank and remained a thorough professional, fair and firm in his dealing with subordinates. He had a steely determination to do the right thing always and every time by his ships and men.
He retired on 30 November 1990 and after retirement, started writing on issues of national security. He was concerned about the unhappy relations between military and civil services.
He passed away on 2 July 2018 in a hospital in Mumbai while battling thyroid cancer. His wife Vimla Nadkarni passed away in 2016. He is survived by two sons, one of whom is Rear Admiral Ravindra Jayant Nadkarni.