Despite the CNS ADM DK Joshi’s rejecting the possibility of sabotage, stories are swirling around about just such possibility as the cause for the sinking of Sindhurakshak early morning Aug 14.
For such stories to bear out necessarily presumes one of two things: That one or more of the 18 crewmen who died were saboteurs, suicide-bombers if you will, who had been recruited to its cause by a foreign country. This doesn’t seem right because each of the dead crewmen was an experienced hand, vetted by the navy for submarine service and with family members to care for on shore. Or, that a weapon was configured for a timed blast, which also presumes the collusion and culpability of some naval personnel in the logistics and ordnance loops.
More likely, it was a misstep, a genuine accident, perhaps– a momentary overlap between weapons loading and battery charging — the latter process emitting combustible hydrogen gas, which two procedures are prohibited from being conducted simultaneously. Or, the mishap could have happened, as Ilya Kramnik, the military commentator for the ‘Voice of Russia’ has speculated, because of “careless handling of ammunition” which requires “a specially reinforced control” designed for “tropical conditions” — something, incidentally, he rules out because of the high level of training of the Indian submarine crews.
VOR also reports that the Russian submarine specialists from the ‘Severodvinsk-based ship repair centre Zvyozodochka” responsible for the recent refit of the Kilo-class boat have not been permitted to visit the site of the mishap. (See the VOR story at http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_08_16/Russian-specialists-not-allowed-to-sunken-submarine-site-in-Mumbai-6833/ ) These Russian experts are in town to probably meet contingencies during the warranty period.
But no negative inferences ought to be drawn from the fact of the resident Russian experts being kept out of the mishap site and the work of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) for the obvious reason that they are a vested party and, if exposed to the site and the damaged submarine before the BOI gets to examining the remains of the submarine after it is dredged up, have an interest in putting a spin on events leading to the explosion in the weapons section of the sub to minimize the Zvyozodochka’s liability in the warranty period. Indeed, it is the proper thing to do. The Russians can always be allowed access after the BOI investigation is over to come up with a separate report if they wish, in order to compare the two reports to see if there are any convergences. And to rectify technical weaknesses in the refit program that the Russian centre can then resolve and correct, while also owning up to the liability.