Remembering Late Vice Admiral KK Nayyar (1929-2018)

"Being a leader is not about being on the top of the team, but creating a top team"
- Patrouille Suisse

It is often quoted that the price of greatness is responsibility, but not many are willing to pay it. Thus, it is rare to cross paths with a life that embodied leadership at its highest ideals. Late Vice Admiral KK Nayyar’s life is a legacy whose impact will reverberate even in times to come. His energy and enthusiasm across nine decades of his life has left strong imprints over modern Indian history. Commissioned into the Royal Indian Navy, he retired as the Vice Chief of Naval Staff in 1986. He had the rare distinction of having commanded both the Western and Eastern Fleets of the Indian Navy. He was closely connected with planning the growth of the modern Indian Navy, and served as Director Naval Plans and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Policy and Plans. Today, the Indian Navy is the most self-reliant of the three armed services, having dramatically expanded its capabilities elementary to become a state-of-the-art today.

After retirement, Vice Admiral Nayyar began his second innings in setting up and strengthening the sphere of strategic thinking and national security in India. He was both a member of the National Security Advisory Board and the Government Committee on Defence Expenditure. He also chaired the panel set up by the 11th Finance Commission to recommend defense expenditure for the period 2000-2005. It would not be an understatement to say that Vice Admiral Nayyar was the fountainhead of the institution of think tanks in India. He helped establish many of them such as the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), and was the Founder Chairman for the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). He became one of the trustees of the VIF in May 2010 and was subsequently elected by the VIF Trust as Chairman of the Vivekananda International Foundation in June 2010. Along with Mr Ajit Doval and Mr S Gurumurthy, his leadership was instrumental in establishing VIF as a nationalist think tank, bringing some of the best minds in the country under one roof.

He was deeply involved in non-official Neeemrana Dialogues with Pakistani strategic thinkers. His engagement with the Saturday Club through his excellent insights and sagely guidance inspired and enriched the lives of many who were associated with it.

His intellectual character, when he could deal with completely contradictory opinions, keep them on board, argue his case and yet keep evolving, was a testament to his leadership. There was nothing that didn’t interest him, from environmental issues to economic matters. He was there and he had opinions, and a very clear understanding. He was known to throw new light on many issues; he was able to guide the community and to draw out the best from it. There was always a sense of humour, a ready smile and zero anger.

Vice Admiral KK Nayyar breathed his last on September 18, 2018. It was not the number of years in his life, but the life he put in those years that made Vice Admiral KK Nayyar an endearing and charismatic mentor figure for the countless many. His loss is irreparable. The Vivekananda International Foundation offers heartfelt condolences to his wife and family. But even in this grief, his spirit, passion and affection, and his strong nationalist outlook, stand like a pillar in the passing winds of history.

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