An Indian view from Parramatta

Published on CAPT James Hook (author), LSIS Ronnie Baltoft (photographer)

Topic(s): Exercise AUSINDEX, HMAS Parramatta (F154), Indo-Pacific Endeavour

Indian Navy officer Lieutenant Arun Bhumbla (right), observes Royal Australian Navy Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Andrew Jennings clear weapons prior to a boarding exercise onboard HMAS Parramatta during AUSINDEX 2019. (photo: LSIS Ronnie Baltoft)
Indian Navy officer Lieutenant Arun Bhumbla (right), observes Royal Australian Navy Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Andrew Jennings clear weapons prior to a boarding exercise onboard HMAS Parramatta during AUSINDEX 2019.

A young Indian naval officer spent AUSINDEX 2019 aboard HMAS Parramatta, observing most of the activity from the bridge of the Australian frigate.

Lieutenant Arun Bhumbla said the bilateral exercise developed a common working culture between the Indian and Australian navies.

“We get to know how the Royal Australian Navy works, and the Australians get to know how we work,” Lieutenant Bhumbla said.

“If we have to operate together in the future, we will know the strengths and weaknesses of both sides, and how we can support each other towards a common goal.”

Lieutenant Bhumbla is from the small town of Hamirpur, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. 

He spent four years as a cadet at the Indian Naval Academy, then six months as a midshipman on training ships.

The highlight was 20 days on the sail training ship Indian Naval Ship Sudarshini – named after the Hindu goddess of education – as it sailed from Cochin to Chennai. 

The 25-year-old is posted as a trainee watchkeeper in the frigate INS Sahyadri, which participated in AUSINDEX in the Bay of Bengal.

Lieutenant Bhumbla joined Parramatta as a sea rider and observed the Australians during the five-day exercise.

“The basic working procedure in both navies is the same because our standard operating procedures derive from the Royal Navy,” he said.

“However, I was particularly impressed with how seriously the Australians take the issue of safety.

“I observed the damage control exercise on Parramatta, and it was conducted in a very realistic fashion as though something had actually happened.

“I was also impressed with how approachable the chain of command was. 

“I generally do not approach anyone more than one rank higher than me, whereas on Parramatta I found a watchkeeper could speak directly to the captain.”

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Dominic Harradine (left), demonstrates the Drager X-AM 5000 gas detector to Indian Navy officer Lieutenant Arun Bhumbla as part of a toxic hazard training activity on board HMAS Parramatta during AUSINDEX 2019.

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Dominic Harradine (left), demonstrates the Drager X-AM 5000 gas detector to Indian Navy officer Lieutenant Arun Bhumbla as part of a toxic hazard training activity on board HMAS Parramatta during AUSINDEX 2019.

Lieutenant Bhumbla was escorted in Parramatta by Lieutenant Dominic Harradine, the ship’s boarding officer and damage control training officer.

“He was keen to learn, and eager to find out about the way we do business at sea,” Lieutenant Harradine said.

“He asked a lot of questions, and listened intently to what we had to say.”

AUSINDEX ran from April 7-11, and was the key interaction with India during Australia’s broader INDO-PACIFIC ENDEAVOUR 2019 activity to South and South-East Asia.