India’s latest defence deal with Swedish firm for supply of two Deep Sea Rescue Vessels for Indian navy is projected at 200 Million UK Pound Sterling. If we convert this sum into Indian rupee than it is corresponding to INR 2000 crore. It is a big sum. Isn’t it? Though, the deal is linked with India’s defence preparedness in considerably worldwide appalling circumstances. Therefore, nobody have paid much attention towards it and observed it as usual defence transaction for national significance. However it is deplorable that such a huge sum is being utilized for acquiring recovery vessels for potential peace time tragedies relating warships and submarines of Indian navy.
The DSRVs are not the operational equipments in nature hence they will play no role in operation activities of Indian navy and after induction in navy they will solely be used for salvaging purpose. The acquisition of DSRVs through very highly priced contract will prove entirely redundant for Indian navy in times to come. Therefore it is reasonably expected to debate about its need for Indian navy at such a high cost at this point in time when country needs funds for social causes as well. Can the cost of DSRVs be justified with their intended utilization? What could be indigenous alternative possibilities for DSRVs? Can India develop such equipments indigenously? India is developing aircraft career category warships at our own shipyards and marching towards self reliance in defence sector than why can’t nation develop such equipments under ‘’make in India mission’’? These are few smoldering questions associated with this deal.
According to naval reports, underlying intention for acquiring DSRVs was to include modern equipment in its flotilla for recuperation purpose in case of peace time disasters involving warships and submarines of Indian Navy. The navy’s justification for acquiring high cost DSRVs is a questionable subject. Presently, navy is operating few traditional platforms for rescue and salvaging purpose for any peace time adversity. The Indian navy could have developed modern salvaging vessels indigenously with much lower cost in India’s own shipyards. The Defence Research and Development Organization could have been assigned responsibility of designing and developing a concept for construction of a modern vessel for the similar function. The operational commitments of Indian Navy are crystal clear and are fulfilled by its warships, submarines and marine aircrafts. The presence of DSRVs in its fleet will barely play any constructive role to make any sea-change in Indian navy’s combat preparedness as these equipments are supporting in nature.
There were very few peace time disasters in navy’s history since independence which also implies that such equipment will scarcely be used during their whole life span. The navy’s efforts and focal point must be based on ‘’prevention is better than cure’’ theory and ensure high standard of operational and maintenance practices for its assets to avoid occurrences of peace time disasters. The Indian Navy must understand that having advanced equipment for salvaging purpose will not make it accident-free organization. There is no enemy threat in peace times and still such accidents takes place from time to time, than as a thumb rule it must be measured to upgrade and develop more advanced guidelines and operating policies. The naval establishments must find the ways to prevent the peace time tragedies, rather than buying costly equipment for recovery of chattels subsequent to each tragedy. The potential peace time disasters can be prevented by following proper SOPs and apt maintenance of equipments and naval assets.
The human resources division is a neglected part in armed forces. The navy is also facing severe man-power shortage since the majority of its workforce is leaving service on completion of their initial engagements due to topsy-turvy and atrocious work ambiance. The maintenance and operations of these equipment will also require separate manpower allocation which will also put extra burden on frontline sea-going units. The navy need not to overlook root causes for peace time disasters and also must accept the fact that having incompatible process for crew training, lack of proper SOPs in place, being imperfect in requisite revision of SOPs, adherence to SOPs, human psychological behavior of personnel and inability to provide excellent work environment for recruits are main reasons for occurrence of such catastrophes. It is mediocre that establishments have felt necessity of DSRVs but they have turned blind eye to prime causes which are actually responsible for occurrence of peace time tragedies. By ignoring factual reasons and straightway jumping to the conclusion of buying equipments like DSRVs is an imprudent assessment.
As a Naval Veteran, I hold a view that when militaries around the world are growing and increasing their technological standards. Hence, Indian Armed Forces also must have latest technologies and military equipments for their inclusive upgrading so that peace and tranquility in region is maintained in contemporary periods. However, foreign defence deals must be acceptable for acquiring modern weapons, sensors and equipments which can augment military capabilities and competence of defence forces. The signing of foreign deal for supply of non-operational highly expensive equipments designed exclusively for recuperation purpose for peace time disasters should never be a judicious preference for any developing country like us. Mitigating such deals should also be seen as an act of morally erroneous. The acquiring costs for such equipments are too high for an emerging country like India at this point in time and if requirement is felt vital for such equipments then substitute of such equipments must be developed indigenously. For more turn to next page.