Submarine down but how long will the truth stay submerged?

Eighteen Indian warriors have died because either someone sabotaged our vessel or somebody was doing a job he wasn’t qualified for. The Indian Navy needs to conduct a quick and fair enquiry and resist any pressure from the top. Source: Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre

Eighteen Indian warriors have died because either someone sabotaged our vessel or somebody was doing a job he wasn’t qualified for. The Indian Navy needs to conduct a quick and fair enquiry and resist any pressure from the top. Source: Zvezdochka Ship Repair Centre

Because torpedoes don’t go off spontaneously, the INS Sindhurakshak disaster looks suspicious from every angle.

Back in the 1970s, my parents and I used to occasionally visit the Indian Air Force base at Hindon, near Delhi. The base hosted fighter planes and if the rare fighter pilot in the family was sent there on a three-year posting, it was exciting for us kids as we got the opportunity to visit a military base.

Hindon Air Force Base was a well guarded establishment. We normally went there in the late evenings, and our car used to be stopped by a huge square jawed sergeant, who was basically a wall of muscle. Toting a machine gun, the man would shine a torch at every one of us in the car.

After taking down names he used to confirm the details with our relative via phone. Then after checking the boot, he used to step back and finally wave us in. While returning, the car was again checked and they made sure we were all on our way out.

And this was the outer perimeter gate; the airfields were further inside where no civilian could approach.

By the mid-1980s the security was a joke. There was a primary school and a high school inside the base meant for the children of pilots, airmen and other IAF staff. Against IAF rules the school started accepting civilian children. I was one of them. While I got in through a relative who was an air vice marshal, others got in through bribing the principal or some admin clerk.

The presence of so many civilian children meant private buses, private cars and cycle rickshaws entering the base at will. There were just four guards on duty and the sergeant had been replaced by a head guard with a dork-like mentality. All you had to tell him was you knew someone in the school and he’d let you in.

Hindon in the mid-eighties was the base for the IAF’s MiG-27 fighter bombers and Mi-8 helicopters. One of the pleasures of attending the base school was the opportunity to watch the pilots practice dive-bombing right next to the school every single day. Bottom line: India’s main strike aircraft of the 1980s was guarded by four guards with antiquated rifles.

Sabotage: How likely?

Things aren’t any better today. Veteran writer M. Nalapat writes in the Sunday Guardian that security at the Mumbai docks is less than impressive and that often the gates are guarded by police personnel or retired servicemen armed with primitive weapons, including rifles whose design dates back to World War II.

Given the inadequate security at India’s military installations, it’s easy for criminals and saboteurs to sneak in. Intelligence professionals believe the August 14 explosions which destroyed INS Sindhurakshak could have been caused by sabotage, according to Nalapat. They fault the navy for consistently refusing to credit negative reports about its own men.

According to a top intelligence professional, the frequent crashes of IAF fighter aircraft “may have come about because of deliberate sabotage during routine maintenance operations.” Background checks on armed forces staff involved in sensitive duties were “a joke,” and “even matters of extreme relevance such as surfing habits on the internet were not ordinarily scanned.”

Intelligence agencies are unable to keep an eye on defence personnel in sensitive posts because India’s most competent sleuths are spying on political opponents. It was under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was turned into a tool to harass political opponents. The IB is known to have at least 30,000 agents and the vast majority of them spy on opposition politicians.

Was it an accident?

Torpedo warheads – like all bombs – have fuses. The missile or torpedo is armed with the fuse only after the order to fire travels through several levels of command, starting with the commander of the submarine. So the question of live torpedoes exploding spontaneously while the Sindhurakshak was in harbour does not arise.

INS Sindhurakshak had just come from Russia after a complete modernisation. In fact, in 2010 while the vessel was in Visakhapatnam a fire broke out after an explosion in the submarine’s battery compartment, which occurred due to a faulty battery valve leaking hydrogen gas. One person died but the sub did not suffer a catastrophic explosion.

Submarine technology has advanced to the point where they are pretty much foolproof. They have to be because think about it, a submarine is a mostly hollow metal tube housing dozens of highly trained professionals, missiles, torpedoes and national secrets.

As it travels hundreds of metres under the sea, the water above the sub is exerting tonnes of pressure from all sides. All that water wants to squeeze the submarine like a beer can while the submarine’s hull tries to keep that water out. You get the picture – modern submarines are built tough. And that is why submarine accidents are so rare.

Foreign involvement

At the height of the Libyan war I wrote that Libya was a live firing zone where innocent civilians were being targeted by France and Britain to showcase the Rafale and Eurofighter aircraft to the IAF. That story was declined by the American portal Oped News, saying that it was an outrageous suggestion. Normally, Oped asks contributors to amend the article but in this instance it sent a note that I must not resubmit it in any form. I don’t know who is in the pay of whom.

The story was, however, published by RIR and is one of my most popular stories. Today I feel vindicated because according to a Defence Industry Daily report, France is now quoting Libyan war data to sell its air to air missiles and aircraft to a range of countries, including India.

My point is that the West will try every trick in the book to unseat Russia from its top position as India’s No.1 weapons supplier. With India poised to seal $80-100 billion worth of big-ticket defence deals over the next five years, the itch to go after Russia must be great in Washington, Paris and London.

The Concorde vs Konkordski dogfight of 1973 is an excellent example. The French sabotaged the Paris Air Show, causing the Russian supersonic transport (SST) plane to crash. According to the US Public Broadcasting Service, “The French intervened into a scientific, technical spectacle for political reasons. This was a major piece of French prestige and honour. They simply wanted to showcase their bird. They wanted to show it off to the world and to push the Russians in the background.”

Six Russian crew members and eight French viewers died because of the crash. One little boy playing in front of his home was decapitated by a piece of flying debris. Two other children were killed and 60 people were seriously injured.

The French could care less about the deaths as long as they won the SST war.

Enquiry needed

Eighteen Indian warriors have died because either someone sabotaged our vessel or somebody was doing a job he wasn’t qualified for. The Indian Navy needs to conduct a quick and fair enquiry and resist any pressure from the top.

However, in India the armed forces are completely subservient to the civilian administration. The current government has refused to censure Pakistan for the barbaric murders of five Indian soldiers in Kashmir. So wary is the government about being what some people call “politically correct” that any enquiry that points a finger at Pakistan or jihadi terrorist involvement in the sinking of Sindhurakshak will most likely be buried.

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