Faced with a depleting fleet of submarines, India is expected to acquire on lease a nuclear submarine from Russia, a deal for which may be finalised during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit there starting on Saturday.
The move to acquire the second nuclear submarine from Russia comes two months after the Navy's frontline Russian- origin Kilo Class INS Sindhurakshak submarine sank at the Mumbai harbour after an explosion suspected to have occurred in its torpedo section.
A proposal in this regard was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister in its recent meeting. The deal is expected to cost India more than Rs. 6,000 crore, highly-placed government sources told PTI.
The Indian Navy is already operating one Akula II Class nuclear submarine – Nerpa. The over 8,000-tonne warship was inducted in April last year at the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command and renamed 'INS Chakra'.
Under the project, India is planning to finance the construction of an old Akula Class submarine 'Irbis' in Russia, which could not be completed during the 1990s due to the lack of funds after the break up of the erstwhile USSR.
The two countries have been holding negotiations in this regard for quite some time and they were concluded recently. The construction of the submarine is expected to take at least three to four years.
India's submarine fleet, which is getting old, suffered a huge blow after the sinking of the INS Sindhurakshak at the Mumbai harbour, killing all the 18 people on-board.
The Russian Kilo and the German HDW Class submarines of the Navy are in the process of being retrofitted and modernised at a time when the Chinese Navy is expanding its nuclear submarine fleet.
The Navy has expressed concern over increasing presence Chinese maritime forces in the Indian Ocean Region close to the Indian waters.
Even though India has been diversifying its source-base for procuring weapon systems, Russia has been the only country from where it has acquired strategic systems such as nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
Russia has also helped India in its indigenous programme for developing nuclear submarines and is believed to have helped Indian scientists in developing a nuclear reactor for indigenously made INS Arihant.
The submarine's nuclear reactor went critical recently and the warship is likely to be sent for sea trials soon for testing its weapon-firing and other capabilities.
Russia is scheduled to hand over aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, to the Indian Navy on November 15. The over 45,000-tonne ship would be commissioned into the service by defence minister AK Antony.