Sorry Sam: India draws the line at submarines - Other allies in mind

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By SUJAN DUTTA in Bengal
  • Published 7.09.07

On board the USS Kitty Hawk in the Bay of Bengal, Sept. 7: The Indian Navy turned down requests from the US to deploy its submarines in the Malabar war games, an officer has confirmed.

The US first requested for a Russian-origin EKM Class submarine. But that was not in Indian plans since the time the country began working on the drill from October last year.

Subsequently, the navy planned to deploy one of its Shishumar class submarines but even that was decided against.

In the absence of an Indian submarine, the USS Chicago was the only “target” available. Each of the contingents from the five navies have “taken a shot” at the nuclear-powered USS Chicago. Two Indian submarine officers were also allowed to board and sail in the Chicago.

Anti-submarine warfare drills are a crucial element of Malabar 07-02 and fall into a category referred to as Casex by navies. It stands for Combined Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercises’ and involves tracking and neutralising of submarines.

An Indian officer said the Chicago makes more noise than conventional diesel-electric submarines (of the kind in the Indian Navy’s fleet) but it travels much faster and can do up to 30 knots compared to the 5-7 knots that the Indian subs are capable of.

The Indian Navy does not officially comment on reports that it is acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia.

The denial of access to some elements in military hardware is a standard practice of the armed forces in international war games.

In Exercise Indradhanush in the UK last month, for example, Indian Sukhoi 30 Mki aircraft flew with their secret Bars II radars switched off at all times to prevent their signatures from being recorded.

For India, the refusal to deploy its submarines is also a signal that it wants to keep its international military engagements multilateral.

This month, an exercise is scheduled with Russia and, next month, a drill with the Chinese army. India’s Russian-origin subs share some technology with that in Iran.