India’s $2 billion purchase of Scorpene submarines, which appeared to have been torpedoed with the change of government here, has revived. The new Navy chief, Adm. Arun Prakash, said the deal has been studied at various levels and now awaits only the approval of the Indian Cabinet.
“The Scorpene deal has been negotiated, scrutinized by watchdog agencies and is awaiting the nod of the Cabinet,” Prakash told reporters here Aug. 11 during his first news conference as chief.
Sources in the Central Vigilance Commission, the government’s corruption watchdog, confirmed that the commission has cleared the Scorpene deal.
The commission was asked last year to scrutinize the $2 billion deal after the then-opposition Congress Party demanded that India not buy the French subs. The Congress Party now leads the coalition United Progressive Alliance government, in power since June.
Eduardo Faleiro, a senior Congress Party member of parliament, refused to comment Aug. 19 on Prakash’s revelations about the submarine deal. But in the past, Faleiro has said that purchasing the Scorpenes would undermine India’s efforts to develop its own submarines and become self-reliant in the defense sector.
India is negotiating with French companies DCN International and Thales to produce six Scorpene submarines under a long-term submarine program, Project 75. The deal would include an option for Indian firms to build 24 additional Scorpenes. Negotiations with Thales began in 1999.
Each 1,500-metric-ton Scorpene would cost about $330 million, a senior Indian Defence Ministry official said.
Criticizing India for approaching only Thales for its submarine program, Faleiro in an April 2003 interview alleged that the company was involved in “shady deals” while selling La Fayette frigates to Taiwan in 2002. “There has to be competition,” said Faleiro, then a member of the parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence. He said the French submarine is “not the cheapest in its class.”
Faleiro noted that Project 75 — finalized by the Naval Submarine Design Bureau and approved by the Defence Ministry in 1997-98 as part of the 30-year Submarine Building Plan — aimed to boost indigenous capabilities and to revive submarine-building activities at Mazagon Docks, Mumbai.
The senior Defence Ministry official said the six Scorpenes will be built at Mazagon Docks.
Ravinder Mohan, chairman of Mazagon and a retired Navy rear admiral, said the company is prepared to build the submarines and awaits the government’s go-ahead.
The vessels, to be delivered between 2010 and 2015, will be built with technical assistance and equipment from DCN International and Thales. They would be armed with EADS SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles, a senior Indian Navy official said.
Earlier talks stalled when DCN International was sending two completed subs to India and building the remaining four there under a technology transfer basis. The company later agreed to India’s demand that all six Scorpenes be built in India under a technology transfer.