The explosion on board the INS Sindhurakshak has blown the lid off the Indian Navy’s claims of battle-preparedness. Most of India’s submarines have lived 75% of their operational life and many of them will be decommissioned in a phased manner in the coming years.
Strategic experts claim that successive Indian governments have been obsessed about designing land-based plans to counter Pakistan and China and the navy always took a back seat.
The Indian Navy is supposed to guard the 7,500 km-long coastline, 1,200 plus islands, and 2.2 million sq km of exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It is also meant to control the Indian Ocean region which contains one-third of the world's population and 40% of the world's oil and gas reserves.
“Induction of submarines into our navy was done more or less in an episodic way. The last of the submarines of the Sindhughosh class was inducted in 1999, 2000. And since then, there has been no new induction, which shows huge lacuna on the part of the government in assessing the situation,” said defence and strategic expert Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar.
“If the Scorpenes get delayed any further, the Indian Navy will be left with just about four or five submarines by 2020,” said a senior navy officer, requesting anonymity.
Six Scorpene submarines are currently being built in Mumbai in collaboration with French firm DCNS. The first of these will be ready by 2016-17.
“The Indian Navy is more like a Cinderella Service. It paid a heavy price, because of the inability of bureaucrats and politicians to arrive at the right strategic assessment,” said Bhaskar.