Navy chief resigns after yet another submarine accident - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 26 February 2014

Navy chief resigns after yet another submarine accident

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Feb 14

The Indian navy chief, Admiral Devendra Kumar Joshi, resigned today after a fire accident on board a navy submarine, INS Sindhuratna, injured seven sailors and left two officers missing.

“Taking moral responsibility for the accidents and incidents which have taken place during the past few months, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi today resigned from the post of CNS. The Government has accepted the resignation of Admiral Joshi with immediate effect,” the defence ministry announced today.

Vice Admiral RK Dhowan, the navy’s vice chief and Admiral Joshi’s deputy, has been asked to take over as acting navy chief until a permanent incumbent is announced.

“It is in the best traditions (of the Indian Navy) that he has owned responsibility”, said Admiral Sureesh Mehta, a former navy chief. This is the first time that an Indian military chief has resigned for professional lapses by his service.

The accident on the INS Sindhuratna, about 60 miles off the coast of Mumbai, was the third such incident in the last seven months involving submarines. Yet the navy chief, Admiral DK Joshi, had declared in December the safety record of his fleet was “not all that bad… if you compare with other navies.”

That satisfaction was not shared by Defence Minister AK Antony, who told top navy commanders last year that, "it is the responsibility of the Navy to optimally operate and maintain (warships), as well as train its personnel suitably so that such national resources are optimally utilised and are not frittered away."

The incident took place ironically whilst the navy’s submarine inspection team was on board, checking safety and other procedures. The navy’s Commodore Commander, Submarines, or COMCOR, its top safety inspector was also on board.

“While at sea in the early hours of 26 Feb 2014, smoke was reported in the sailors accommodation, in compartment number three, by the submarine. Smoke was brought under control by the submarine's crew,” stated the navy today, understating the gravity of the incident.

According to the navy, INS Sindhuratna was carrying out “routine training and workup”, which is standard procedure after a major refit (maintenance). For that reason, the submarine did not have any weapons on board.

In the last seven months, India’s submarine fleet has been worryingly depleted from its already low strength of 14 submarines, of which no more than 10 were operationally available at any given time. On August 14, 2013, INS Sindhurakshak, sank in Mumbai harbour after an explosion killed all 18 crew members on board. A second submarine, INS Sindhughosh, which was parked alongside Sindhurakshak, was damaged in the fire; the navy has released no details. Four years earlier, the Sindhughosh had collided with a merchant vessel while surfacing off the off the coast of Mumbai. The INS Sindhuratna itself was involved in a minor accident a few years ago, when a tug that was towing it collided with INS Sindhukesri, damaging the latter’s rudder. Now, with INS Sindhuratna incapacitated, the navy cannot field more than 8-9 submarines in a crisis.

The question marks over the navy’s safety culture extend also to the surface fleet. In January 2011, the 2,700-tonne frigate, INS Vindhyagiri, the former flagship of the western naval fleet, sank in Mumbai after colliding with a merchant vessel. In December, a day after the navy chief dismissed safety concerns, a minesweeper, INS Konkan, was gutted in a major fire whilst in Visakhapatnam harbour. Days later, one of the navy’s most modern frigates, INS Talwar, collided with a fishing trawler off Ratnagiri, sinking the latter. The warship captain was later relieved of command. Several other naval warships have been damaged in incidents over recent years. 


  1. last time i spoke with my friend from navy, he told me that the quality of officers who are getting into are qualitatively getting lesser and lesser as years pass by. Its time Indian armed forces look into ROTC like setup in India.

  2. Rajeev Chaturvedi26 February 2014 at 20:18

    D K Joshi was an uright commander, a true operations person with lack of media and political skills. So he saved his honour and resigned. But the person who has brought entire defence services to this stage, the defence minister, A K Antony, why doesn't he also resign??

    If there is a comparison done, Antony has been the worst defence minister of India after Menon. He frittered away 10 years of rare peace and let the services ruin themselves due to lack of funds, support and management.

    Its a shame that India has a navy which is smallest among all major powers of the world. The Navy is asked to defend 7500 km of coast and millions of miles of EEZ with a skeleton staff of 58,000 personnel.

    Whereas the Indian Army is bloating and bloating and bloating,to the strength of 1.35 million now.

    Its been sad state of affairs all across India under this government, especially in defence.Hope the next government will bring back some sanity.

  3. While the navy chief has done the honourable thing to do, it is the Raksha Mantri who should resign. Self centered , self serving Antony has put the security if this nation in peril to feed his image politics. For the past 10 years the services have been systematically degraded of their potential by shoddy procurement plans. Antony is Krishna Menon the second. Let us all pray that there is a change in the wind after the election

  4. Perhaps time that some heads roll in mod too . Also cross staffing of mod and mod fin is a must

  5. How come The Defence Secretary or JS Navy and Antony himself do not resign ?
    Is IN the last post of responsibility ?

  6. In reply to comment by anonymous on 27 feb 09:42.
    the argument that the quality of officers getting in the navy has come down IS VERY SILLY and IMMATURE. Its analogous to elder generation criticizing younger generation or saying that this summer is hotter than last summer..... its summer and it will be hot. The process of selecting officers is extremely fool proof and has survived many rough days. If the comment by anonymous 09:42 is a result of incompetence of officers on submarine, let me bring out some facts. The two officers who lost their lives showed exemplary leadership and sent their men out of scene of fire and let themselves locked up in order to fight the fire. the commanding officer of the boat tried to save these young officers who were bravely fighting the fire in vain but got himself hooked on to a ventilator in hospital. the two officers saved the entire submarine and its crew from getting engulfed in fire and sacrificed their life in return. So I seriously object the "friend from the navy" comment that the quality if officers is diminishing.

  7. This accident has happenned because the Sailors did not follow the SOP drill when fire was detected in the battery compartment.The two officers got trapped due to this.Ageing of fleet is no excuse. We have 303 rifles in police, allouttes and Chetaks which are ages old and MIG 21. the SOPs should be constantly updated as the ship ages.One cannot ask for latest imported weapons for every arms of Defence. Pakistan is flying F16 which was introduced the same time as MIG 21 but our forces used to the imports.

  8. sinha... what happened... battery funds... where it dived... ???...

  9. Now we know that SOPs were not followed??!!!


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