Resignation triggers succession struggle
New Delhi: By resigning Indian Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi paid for a collective fault, not one of his own making. A fault that starts at the level of slow decision making of the Government coupled with lackadaisical manner of ship and submarine building.
Admiral Joshi had resigned as Chief of the Indian Navy on February 26 after a fire on board the Russian origin kilo-class Submarine INS Sindhurtana that killed two officers and injured 7 sailors. Admiral Joshi’s act of owning moral responsibility earned him respect among his peers, juniors and seniors, but it has raised several questions on the Navy sub-surface capabilities.
Chief’s are appointed for a period of three years or till the time they attains 62 years of age which-ever is earlier. Vice Admiral’s retires at 60 years of age hence age matters for officer to become a chief. Admiral DK Joshi paid for a collective fault, not one of his own making. A fault that starts at the level of slow decision making of the Government coupled with lackadaisical manner of ship and submarine building.
Admiral Joshi had resigned as Chief of the Indian Navy on February 26 after a fire on board the Russian origin kilo-class Submarine INS Sindhurtna that killed two officers and injured 7 sailors. Admiral Joshi’s act of owning moral responsibility earned him respect among his peers, juniors and seniors, but it has raised several questions on the Navy sub-surface capabilities.
It will need some quick decision making and deft handling from the Ministry of Defence lest China wrests the initiative.
Within the security establishment, it is a well known fact that the Indian submarine fleet is running on borrowed time and the submarine construction plan has been faltering due to one reason or the other. The accident on the INS Sindhuratna was like the last straw on Admiral’s pride and conscious. He resigned and told Defence Minister AK Antony that he wanted to resign “with immediate effect”.
India has at present 15 submarines in its fleet that includes the Nuclear powered INS Chakra, the 8,100 tonne Akula class vessel taken on lease from Russia. On August 14, 2013 the INS Sindhurakshak, a Kilo class Russian origin submarine, sank leaving Indian Navy with just 14 submarines, yesterday’s accident on board the INS Sindhuratna means the vessel will be out of service for a few months. Apart from these two damaged vessels India has eight other Kilo-class submarines of varying heritage, but all of them older than 15 years. Sindhuratna is the newest one that was acquired on 19 July, 2000. Oldest one of the Kilo class series is, INS Sindhughosh which was commissioned on 30 April, 1986.
Here on it gets even more worrisome. The four German origin HDW vessels are more than 25 years old and are to undergo a mid-life upgrade. With the HDW’s headed by a mid-life upgrade, the operationally available fleet will be less than 10 – or to put it simply in single digits, China has 55 submarines and is looking to dominate the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC’s) in the Indian Ocean.
On December 3, last year, Admiral Joshi while addressing a press conference had put up brave face when asked about submarines. “We have reviewed the operational cycle. By increasing man-hours during refit (we can turn around the vessel faster) it can extend operations. We are taking service life extensions. By giving a truncated refit we will have vessels available to us,” he had said.
India’s 30 year submarine construction plan launched in 1999 envisaged 30 submarines of various classes. 15 years latter not a single vessel has been produced. The first of the six scorpene class submarines being built in collaboration with French Company DCNS will be ready by 2016. The Government has not been able to take a decision on the production of the next six – these are planned with air independent propulsion (AIP) technology.
With the resignation of DK Joshi, a succession struggle is likely to take place for the coveted post of CNS in the Navy. Admiral Joshi’s resignation has upset the succession line in the Navy. Had he completed for his full tenure, Vice Admiral Satish Soni, the present Southern Naval Command Chief was in line to succeed him on September 1, 2015.
Now Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha, the Western Naval Command Chief is the senior-most with his retirement slated for October 31, 2014. Ironically for the Government to appoint Vice Admiral Sinha will be odd. All the mishaps for which Admiral Joshi resigned occurred in the Western Command of the Navy.
The second senior-most in line is Vice Admiral Dhowan, who retires on May 31, 2014. The third senior-most is Admiral Anil Chopra the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Eastern Naval Command, Vishakapatnam. He superannuates in 2015.