Some developments re: Sindhurakshak

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 ) 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.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Indian Navy, Indian Ocean, Military Acquisitions, Russia, russian assistance, russian military, South Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Some developments re: Sindhurakshak

  1. RV says:

    It’s irresponsible to write-off sabotage even before the stricken boat is raised. Looks like the BOI has a pre-set agenda.

    • The latest Indian Navy decision to involve Russian experts for the investigation into the explosion is a tremendous development; after all who better than the Russians with the most intimate experience of the Kilo-class submarines to assist in a deconstruction of events?

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