Despite the unfortunate loss of the non-nuclear submarine INS Sindhurakshak in Mumbai’s high-security naval dockyard, India must not change its stance towards Russia, our longstanding ally and friend in matters more than defence-related affairs. Although the 16-year-old fighter vessel that sank in the wee hours of Wednesday, 14 August, was refitted in Russia, the reason for the accident must be established first before pointing a finger at our collaborators in Moscow. Evidently, any signs of sabotage, though not yet ruled out, have not been linked to the overhaul base, and investigations have led the experts to belive that it was violation of safety regulations and laxity on the part of the naval personnel, 18 of whom died in the tragedy, that had ultimately resulted in the explosion that gutted the ‘defender of the seas.’ Naturally, while India is likely to raise questions over any technical snag that might have been behind the incident, we must not forget that untoward proclamations without adequate assessment would only hamper Indo-Russian ties, something that is extremely unsuitable given the current geostrategic compulsions. The diesel-electric submarine that was built in 1997 by the Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard in St Petersburg and refitted at the Severodvinsk-based Zvezdochka ship-building base, had undergone several rigorous trials, although a portentous fire incident in 2012 had cast a shadow over its future prospects.
Certainly, New Delhi should refrain from playing the blame game over the loss of the ‘defender of the seas’, even though the 2,300-tonne diesel-powered vessel had undergone a robust upgrade costing the navy $18 million. Cooperation should be extended from both sides not only to undertake the probe fully and extensively, but also to devise ways to plug the gap that has been left open by the fiery end of one of India’s crucial defence marvels. Although India is reaching out to the US and Israel for developing its military muscle mass, it is Russia that has been the cherished partner that has been relied upon since Independence. Moreover, Russia can also offer help by lending similar submarines to India so as to minimise the loss of a member of Sindhughosha family.