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‘Trained hard, celebrated Indian festivals, learnt Hindi’: Foreign trainees at Indian Naval Academy

Chennai: It’s not an easy thing for a 17-year old to leave home, family and travel abroad to train at a military academy. New culture, new people, new language, new places and a grueling and transformative four-year-long training period. The list is endless. Despite all these challenges, these young men and women assimilate, learn, grow and develop into fine naval officers at the Indian Naval Academy, Ezhimala, ready to go back and serve their own countries.

Zee Media spoke to such foreign personnel who completed their training at the Indian Naval Academy and formally passed out of the premier naval training institution.

The INA trains young men and women to be commissioned as officers of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. INA is also the only defence institution in India to handle ab-initio training for young men and women under both short service commission and permanent commission.

“Apart from training hard with the Indian cadets, we had the opportunity of blending with Indian Culture. We celebrated and enjoyed festivals such as Holi, Diwali and Onam. The brotherhood here and the love showered upon me by the fellow cadets and their families never let me feel like a foreigner in the last four years,” Sub-Lieutenant Isuru Senevirathne from Sri Lanka told Zee Media. Notably, he also spoke the same in fluent Hindi, which he had picked up and mastered during his time at the academy.

Walking into the INA, the trainees come from various cultural, linguistic, socio-economic backgrounds, but once in the academy, they only have a single identity – that of a naval officer in the making. In their crew cuts, glistening white uniforms and chiselled, lean-muscular physiques, it’s hard to even identify one cadet from another.

For Abdullazizi Omar Haji from Tanzania, his first challenge was to improve English while at the academy in order to better understand the course and communicate with his course mates and instructors.

“I joined here after completing high school. My parents are teachers back home and I’m the youngest of four brothers. Here, I picked up English slowly with the help of my instructors, course mates and seniors, who helped me a lot. I’m also able to understand Hindi now,” said Omar Haji.

Omar and Isuru were among the 231 trainees who had passed out as Naval Officers from the Indian Naval Academy over the weekend. These cadets had pursued different technical courses at the INA, spanning between six months, one year and four years. While the Indian officers will go on to serve the Indian Navy, the foreign personnel will return to their respective countries.

As a part of military diplomacy and in order to build stronger bridges of friendship, India’s defence Institutions train military personnel from friendly foreign countries. This helps develop trust, bonding, camaraderie and interoperability between the forces. In recent decades, the Indian Navy has trained over 15,000 foreign personnel from over 46 countries.