The current naval ensign

The new Naval Ensign will be unveiled on Friday; it will be the fourth time since 1950 that the ensign will undergo a change

New Delhi: The Indian Navy will get a new Naval Ensign (Nishaan) Friday which will be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kochi during the commissioning of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said the new ensign would do “away with the colonial past… befitting the rich Indian maritime heritage”.

The current ensign of the Navy is a white flag with horizontal and vertical red stripes, symbolising the Cross of Saint George, with the emblem of India superimposed on the intersection. The tricolour is placed in the upper canton next to the staff.

Sources in the defence and security establishment remained tight-lipped about the new design that the cross will go. Also, the naval crest depicting an anchor would be added besides certain colour changes. The sources added that a commonality would be maintained with the Flags of the Army and the Indian Air Force.

This is the fourth time since 1950 that the Naval Ensign would undergo a change.

On 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the Navy Crest and flags were duly ‘Indianized’. However, the latter (Ensign and Distinguishing Flags) retained a touch of the British legacy — the Red St. George’s Cross – though the Union flag was replaced by the tricolour.

Interestingly, during the post-colonial period, while other ex-colonial Navies discarded the Red St George’s Cross in their new ensigns and flags, the Indian Navy retained it till 2001.

With effect from 15 August 2001, the design of the ensign was changed and the Cross made its way out of the Indian Navy crest.

The idea to change the Navy’s ensign came from Vice Admiral Vivian Barboza in the early 1970s. Admiral Barboza retired from the Indian Navy as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command.

In 2004, however, the original ensign was adopted again as there were complaints within the force that the blue of the naval crest was indistinguishable from the sky and the ocean. The present ensign was changed back to St George’s Cross with the addition of the Indian emblem in its intersection.

In 2014, the ensign as well as the naval crest were updated to include the national motto “Satyameva Jayate” in the Devanagari script.