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The year was 1987. The Cold War, a colossal game of brinkmanship, dominated the world stage. The United States and the Soviet Union, locked in an ideological duel, cast long shadows over the international landscape. In this tense environment, India, a burgeoning power, was making its own strategic move – acquiring its first nuclear submarine.

Captain R N Ganesh, a submariner brimming with ambition, led a team of Indian officers on a crucial mission – securing a Soviet nuclear submarine. Negotiations concluded, a three-year lease agreement was signed, marking a historic moment for India’s naval aspirations.

However, a hurdle arose. Accustomed to a methodical approach, the Soviets proposed a lengthy six-month training program for the Indian crew. Undeterred, Captain Ganesh, confident in his crew’s skills, countered with a bold proposition – a mere thirty days. His unwavering belief in his team’s abilities, honed through rigorous training, ultimately swayed the Soviets.

The prize that awaited them was a refurbished Charlie-I class submarine, a leviathan of steel reborn. Christened INS Chakra, a name echoing the legendary Sudarshana Chakra, a mythical weapon from Indian lore, this vessel symbolized India’s burgeoning underwater might.

By October 1987, INS Chakra was ready for its voyage. Yet, fate intervened. Ongoing arms control talks between the US and USSR put a temporary hold on activities. The crew, however, remained resolute, their determination a beacon in the face of this setback.

Finally, in January 1988, amidst the biting cold of a Vladivostok winter (-15°C), INS Chakra roared to life. The journey home was a testament to Indian seamanship. The submarine, a partly submerged behemoth, navigated the vast South China Sea and the Malacca Strait, escorted by a vigilant Indian frigate.

But watchful eyes weren’t limited to allies. American and Australian P3C Orion aircraft kept a close eye on INS Chakra, a silent dance playing out in the vast ocean theater.

Reaching Indian waters, INS Chakra submerged in the Andaman Sea, finally surfacing in Vishakapatnam on a momentous day – February 2nd, 1988. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, along with other dignitaries, embarked on INS Chakra for a sea demonstration, a powerful symbol of India’s burgeoning naval power and its foray into the nuclear age.

Though INS Chakra was eventually returned in 1992, its legacy endured. It served as an invaluable training ground, providing Indian submariners with the experience and expertise to operate nuclear-powered vessels. The story of INS Chakra transcends a mere submarine lease; it’s a saga of unwavering ambition, a testament to India’s resolve to carve its own path in the ever-changing geopolitical landscape.