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.
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Jayant Baranwal Publisher & Editor-in-Chief