Ac­ci­dents in In­dian Navy, lessons to be learnt


Over the past year, the In­dian Navy has been un­der the scan­ner for a spate of ac­ci­dents. The re­cent fire in sub­ma­rine INS Sind­hu­ratna, which claimed the lives of two of­fi­cers and im­me­di­ately there­after, the Navy Chief Ad­mi­ral D.K. Joshi re­signed “tak­ing moral re­spon­si­bil­ity of the ac­ci­dents and in­ci­dents which have taken place dur­ing the past few months.” This has come as a ma­jor jolt.

The ac­ci­dent comes close on the heels of the sink­ing of INS Sind­hu­rak­shak, a Rus­sian kilo class sub­ma­rine, and killing three of­fi­cers and 15 sailors. At the press con­fer­ence dur­ing De­fexpo in New Delhi, the De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony had un­der­scored that such ac­ci­dents/in­ci­dents were a mat­ter of se­ri­ous con­cern and that the Navy had been di­rected to dili­gently fol­low stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures. He had also warned then there would be no ex­cuses.

While the Min­is­ter’s state­ment can be ap­pre­ci­ated, the is­sue that rat­tles ev­ery­one in the armed forces is the ‘de­layed’ re­lease of funds for mod­erni­sa­tion of the armed forces. There have been con­stant re­ports how the Navy needs to re­place some of its age­ing sub­ma­rine fleet. More than half of sub­marines have com­pleted 75 per cent of their op­er­a­tional lives. Long be­fore Sind­hu­rak­shak went out of ac­tion, only six of In­dia’s 14 sub­marines were op­er­at­ing at any given time, while there is tardy progress on build­ing the Scor­pene with French as­sis­tance.

The govern­ment has to pro­vide ad­e­quate funds for the mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme and not keep di­vert­ing cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture to­wards rev­enue ex­pen­di­ture as it was done in 2013-14. The Navy Chief’s res­ig­na­tion is a telling re­minder to the po­lit­i­cal class and the bu­reau­crats to go be­yond plat­i­tudes and as­sur­ances.

Mean­while, In­dian Navy had a suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of its an­nual ex­er­cise Tropex (Theatre Level Op­er­a­tional Readi­ness Ex­er­cise). The ex­er­cise in­volved large-scale naval ma­noeu­vres in all three di­men­sions, viz. sur­face, air and un­der­wa­ter, across the Bay of Ben­gal, Ara­bian Sea and the In­dian Ocean.

The month-long ex­er­cise was aimed to as­sess the op­er­a­tional readi­ness of naval units, val­i­date the Navy’s war-fight­ing doc­trine and in­te­grate newly in­cluded ca­pa­bil­i­ties in its ‘Con­cept of Opera- tions’. Around 60 ships and sub­marines, and 75 air­craft took part in this ex­er­cise.

In his fort­nightly view­point, Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch has said that In­dia needs se­ri­ous in­tro­spec­tion to keep pace with the mod­erni­sa­tion of the de­fence forces. The hike in for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in de­fence from 26 per cent to 49 per cent with sta­teof-the-art tech­nol­ogy trans­fer has not at­tracted any worth­while cap­i­tal be­cause of the bu­reau­cratic red tape and de­fence pro­cure­ment pol­icy that is not found at­trac­tive by for­eign firms due to un­cer­tain­ties and the time fac­tor. He states that un­less se­ri­ous bot­tle­necks are re­moved joint ven­tures, par­tic­u­larly Indo-US, in the ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory will re­main a dis­tant dream. In an­other ar­ti­cle, he dis­cusses how laser weapons have added a new di­men­sion to war­fare.

We look for­ward to your feed­back as it would help us in im­prov­ing our con­tent and sharpen our cov­er­age.

Happy read­ing!

Jayant Baran­wal Pub­lisher & Edi­tor-in-Chief

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