by E K Badwar

In the seventeen- year period between 2001 and 2018, how many diesel-electric submarines were commissioned into the Indian Navy. The answer is, just one, the INS Kalvari. If this is not a disaster of epic proportions then what is it? Smaller countries like Vietnam have done much better. As far as the sub building program of India is concerned, there is nothing to write home about. The origin of this state of a affairs lies in the HDW scandal in the 1980s.

After much expertise was gained in the building of four vessels, the project was scrapped due to alleged kickbacks. If you wanted prove that corruption can impact the security of a nation ,this is it.Enter the Project 75 .In this program an attempt was made to relearn skills in submarine building at the state run Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL). Sadly, this project is also five years behind schedule. Every though project was sanctioned in the year 2005 only one vessel has been delivered till date. 

Another program, the P-751 that was actually intended to run parallel to the P-75 is still languishing in government files. Even the much vaunted ATV program, which spawned the INS Arihant is proceeding at a snails pace. The recent completion of INS Arihant of a “deterrence”patrol , brought forth much applause. However, as many analysts have pointed out ,one SSBN will not be enough for deterrence. India will need at least 6 – 8 SSBNs as part of the sea-leg of the trial. Instead only one vessel is in operation.And as far as the SSN project to build six nuclear attack submarines is concerned, it is still in the design stage.

With China’s large and still growing fleet of seventy submarines and Pakistan’s planned acquisition of eight submarines from China, the Indian Navy is losing the submarine race. In fact, qualitatively speaking, Pakistan’s flotilla of around four Agosta’s (with AIP) outclasses anything the Indian Navy has to offer. As of today, the Indian submarine arm makes do with some 13 vessels half of which are ready to be towed to a museum. According to the Indian Navy’s own projection , the plan is to have a 200 ship navy by the year 2022. It is hard to visualise how this will be achieved if the submarine arm is in such a sorry state.

India’s growing surface fleet will have to be complimented by a strong undersea arm if it is to prevail in any future conflict. We will need a bare minimum of 30 SSKs (not just 24) apart from the nuclear boats to attain some balance in in the undersea component against China and Pakistan. As of today it does not look likely that this will be achieved soon. 

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same