Admiral Shekhawat was amongst the first officers to be commissioned from the Indian Military Academy. Considered an excellent boxer in School, Admiral Shekhawat passed out of Cotton’s in the late 1940’s and went on to join the Joint Services Wing of the National Defence Academy (NDA). He was awarded the President Gold Medal for the best all-round cadet in December 1953. An exceptional sportsman, Admiral Shekhawat was awarded the Blues in Athletics, Boxing, Swimming, Football and Riding. He also won the Cadets’ Show Jumping Prize in the Army Horse Show, New Delhi, 1954. A keen orator, Admiral Shekhawat participated in the inter-university debates and even crossed swords with the teams from Oxford University.
Commissioned in 1956, Admiral Shekhawat held various assignments in fleet ship before leaving for UK in 1959 as the Second Gunnery Officer on INS Talwar and as the Navigating Officer on the return through the Mediterranean. He received submarine training in the UK (1963-64) and the USSR (1966-67), and was the Director of the Submarine Arm from 1975-1977. He commissioned INS Kalvari (1967) and INS Karanj (1969) – two submarines in the Baltic Sea and sailed them through the Atlantic Ocean to India. Admiral Shekhawat has been the Executive and Commanding Officer of several submarines, the Submarine Base and the 8 Submarine Squadron at Vizag. Admiral Shekhawat also attended the U. S. Naval War College in New Port in USA in 1977-78 and later commanded INS Himgiri in 1981-82. He has also served as the Chief Instructor at the NDA from 1979-1981.
Admiral Shekhawat played a stellar role during the Indo-Pak War in 1971. He was honoured with the preeminent Vir Chakra for his gallantry during the war and his citation reveals that as the Commanding Officer of an Indian Naval Submarine, Commander Shekhawat (as he then was) continued to carry out his hazardous patrol and thereby posed a constant under-water threat to Pakistan, despite his precarious positioning that brought his ship under constant surveillance by the air and surface forces of the Enemy. It is stated further that Admiral Shekhawat’s probes in the proximity of Karachi obtained vital information for the Indian Navy. Admiral Shekhawat was also bestowed the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) and the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) for exceptional service in 1984 and 1991 respectively.
Admiral Shekhawat served as the Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) and commanded the prestigious Western Fleet, considered the strike-force of the Indian Navy, during 1986-87. He was promoted as Vice Admiral in August 1988 and was Director General of the tri-service Defence Planning Staff. Admiral Shekhawat was Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command from December 1990 to October 1992 and was the Vice Chief of the Naval Staff from November 1992 to September 1993. He attained the pinnacle of his career when he was appointed Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) on September 30, 1993. In March 1996, Admiral Shekhawat became India’s first Chief of Naval Staff to visit China. He retired as CNS on September 30, 1996.
After retirement, Admiral Vijay Singh Shekhawat has served on the National Advisory Board (appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office) along with former Service Chiefs -General (Retd.) S. F. Rodrigues and Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) S. K. Mehra. Admiral Shekhawat also served as the Vice Chairman of Outward Bound India, a non-profit making organisation dedicated to adventure sports, which has been set up under the patronage of Sir Edmond Hillary and has its South India Chapter on a twelve-acre property on the old Mahabalipuram Road, close to Chennai. In this regard, it is pertinent to mention that the Admiral has also completed an advanced mountaineering training course from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and was a member of the successful Annapurna II expedition in 1961.
During his career, Admiral Shekhawat was known for his forthright views on security issues relating to the Navy. He has made several presentations on maritime dimensions of India’s security, including, notably, a thematic study that covers the significant events of the past fifty years such as the Cold War, emergence of communist China, World War II, nuclear tests by India and Pakistan., and provides an insight into the causes of concern to India’s defence in the future. In this connection, Admiral Shekhawat has assessed that countries of concern to India in the twenty first century would be Pakistan, in the short and medium term, China, in the long term due to its ambitious drive to become a global power as well as its massive military expansion, and, interestingly, the USA, who would have a variable but permanent presence in the foreseeable future. The present geo-political developments reveal the accuracy of these statements. Admiral Shekhawat firmly believes that India’s powerful maritime dimensions would desist any offensive action by Her neighbours. However, in order to be a real sea power, Admiral Shekhawat believes that along with a strong and modern navy, India also needs to develop a full-service scientific and infrastructural system, providing ancillary maritime applications such as shipbuilding, ports and fisheries. In true statesman-like fashion he states that strong diplomacy, which is rooted in economic development, is a corresponding necessity to a strong defence policy.
Admiral Shekhawat is married to Mrs. Binu Shekhawat, and has two sons, the younger of whom is a pilot with the Indian Navy. Incidentally, Admiral Shekhawat happens to be one of three OCs to have become Chief of Staff, the others being General K. S. Thimayya and General Sir Frank Simpson, former Chiefs of the Indian and British armies respectively.