The leak of 22,000 pages of data pertaining to the Scorpene submarines India has been building in Mumbai has raised a question mark on the whole deal entered into with the French company DCNS. The Australian, the newspaper which claims to have all the pages with it, has not published what it considers sensitive data. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar seems to have been taken aback by the development. He seems to be clueless about how the secret data were leaked. Whether they were leaked by some Indian sources or it was the handiwork of some elements in the French firm, which looks more likely, are matters to be found out to assess the damage caused. Also to be ascertained is whether it was a simple case of hacking.
There may be truth in the DCNS claim that it became a victim of economic warfare and business rivalry. For instance, India’s project to build six submarines to replace the ageing Russian ones was worth a staggering `23,562 crore. The French firm won the contract against stiff competition from several companies. They are now competing for submarine orders from other countries. It doesn’t look like a case of spying since no enemy country would like to publicise what it knows about our submarines. As a defence expert has pointed out, “The DNA of a submarine is about not being detected. If the adversary — read Pakistan and China — has all the data, it affects the detectability index of the vessel”. Whatever be the truth, the bitter fact is that the submarines, which are under various stages of making, have been compromised.
Work on the first in the series has more or less been completed and it is expected to be inducted into the naval fleet. How best the situation can be salvaged is what has to be found out. If necessary, the whole contract can be scrapped for the nation does not want a compromised fleet. Alternatively, if possible, the specifications can be changed. But, let’s first have a clear idea of the loss.