During the Combined Commanders Conference this month, the Indian Navy has informed the Narendra Modi government that the induction of six nuclear-powered submarines would take priority over the the  indigenous aircraft carrier 2 which has been in the pipeline for years. The government’s emphasis on upgrading naval assets must be perceived as an attempt to counter China’s navy in the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The Indian Navy has been thinking of reviving its heavy-destroyer project to counter the destroyer being built by China in just five years. The first of India’s 7,500 tonne INS Visakhapatnam class of guided-missile destroyers is expected to be commissioned within a year. The PLA’s navy is much larger than the US navy in terms of the number of ships, but the US is still ahead in terms of tonnage and capability.

The Navy, thereafter will be seeking an “acceptance of necessity” or AON approval from the government on the submarine project. The necessity of nuclear-powered submarines lies in its ability to patrol the entire Indo-Pacific without even surfacing once and remain detected on high seas and equatorial waters.

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Paris and India have been jointly developing a nuclear attack submarine (named Alvaro Alberto) for Brazil under a strategic partnership. France has been the closest of the allies in defense technology. The joint development of submarines with France is permissible bacause it is free from any regulatory regimes such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) with the US .It will also not come under the radar for future sanctions in case of Russia.  India already operates one Akula class SSN from Russia on lease with an agreement to get another one when the lease on the first expires.

It is no doubt that China has nearly a dozen such submarines in operation. The Type 095 attack submarine has a reduced acoustic signature as compared to the Han class of submarines. In this operation, India’s preferred partner for this exercise appears to be Paris because it has already designed Kalvari class of diesel attack submarines for Indian Navy. 

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