Thursday, March 06, 2014

Indian Navy's 2-Star Submarine Chief Faces Veteran Fire

As Defence Minister A.K. Antony continues to be the object of simmering anger within the navy over what has been a traumatic week with Admiral DK Joshi's resignation, there's parallel fury freshly raging against the navy's serving 'Submarine-in-Chief', the officer currently investigating the INS Sindhuratna accident.

Flag Officer Submarines (FOS) Rear Admiral Soonil V. Bhokare's personal Rediffmail inbox has been invaded by angry e-mails from retired veterans who believe the officer should follow his chief's example and quit service. While veterans, including former submariner Rear Admiral (Retd.) K. Raja Menon believe Antony to be the worst Defence Minister in independent India, others now believe that anger must be directed at those who call the shots within the navy. With Admiral DK Joshi out, that anger is now focused on Western Naval Command chief Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, and now, Rear Admiral Bhokare.

A particularly angry e-mail from a retired Commander-rank submariner to Rear Admiral Bhokare, currently being posted on naval veteran forums says, "I write to you in extreme anguish at the very sad and sorry state of affairs of a once proud and most professional arm of the Navy. Today we hang our heads in shame, both serving and retired submariners, thanks to  the legacy left behind by illustrious people like you and a few others who have followed you."

The officer, who has preferred not to be identified, writes, "Today in the Navy sporting a 'Dolphin' [insignia of the submarine service] on your chest is a shame. The mood amongst the men in the arm is absolutely militant and young officers, the leaders of tomorrow are absolutely depressed and disgusted at our dilution of standards and safety norms. (Sindhuratna was sailing with 94 people on board. Were there enough IDA sets on board for all 94.)"

That last point is the subject of Rear Admiral Bhokare's investigation now, and is an aspersion on naval standard operating procedures, adherence to safety protocols and basic training. Part of the buck, angry veterans feel, stops with senior officers in the Indian Navy, whose job it is to ensure laxity never for a moment creeps into daily duties. Several e-mails of a similar tenor to the one quoted above are understood to have been shot off by veterans to those currently making sense of the INS Sindhurakshak and INS Sindhuratna incidents.

The navy sought to dispel anger against the MoD over reportedly expired batteries on the INS Sindhuratna by stating today that, "There are no signs to indicate any initiation of fire from the battery pit. The batteries appear to be clear of any damage and would now be put through normal checks and maintenance routines prior operationalisation. The preliminary inspection of third compartment indicates that the fire has emanated from the third compartment mess deck (sailor's accommodation). The batteries which were being exploited by Sindhuratna at the time of incident were operationally in-date."

While the MoD gets to duck any damage over batteries, at least for the moment, it continues to evade questions over modernisation of the submarine arm at large. As HEADLINES TODAY reported last week, the MoD has sat motionless on a 2010 classified naval report literally pleading for high-level intervention to save the submarine service from a crisis.

Questions over procedure, protocol and training within the navy are likely to take centrestage, with deeply uncomfortable questions emerging. Perhaps in an effort to deflect the adverse publicity playing out in the media and veterans community, the navy yesterday published a statement saying, "The fast pace of operations, accentuated by increasing complexities often puts men and material under strain, thus requiring stringent adherence to safety procedures. The Indian Navy is sensitive of the fact that all naval evolutions need to be effectively undertaken within a well defined safety operating envelope. Accordingly, 'safety culture' as a way of life, amongst personnel, traditionally forms a part of naval ethos, and several initiatives have additionally been introduced based on emerging requirements."

First published here.

11 comments:

captainjohann said...

These retired guys have no job except to criticise. Indian naval arm is comparatively young compared to many Navies. But these guys will tallk about US navy or European Navy. Even russian navy is comparatively older.Again they will come out with creation of Joint chief of staff office as if naval chief did not have access to Defence Minister..An Airforce officer can demand F22 and crib about MIG 21 but then one has to take what we have and increase safety standards and streamline SOPs as the machine ages.A battery fire or the cable fire in what way is connected to creation of Chief of defence staff?

captainjohann said...

These retired guys have no job except to criticise. Indian naval arm is comparatively young compared to many Navies. But these guys will tallk about US navy or European Navy. Even russian navy is comparatively older.Again they will come out with creation of Joint chief of staff office as if naval chief did not have access to Defence Minister..An Airforce officer can demand F22 and crib about MIG 21 but then one has to take what we have and increase safety standards and streamline SOPs as the machine ages.A battery fire or the cable fire in what way is connected to creation of Chief of defence staff?

Anonymous said...

&#@! you. Sail in a coffin and stay there.

Anonymous said...

First order of the day is to ensure that there is direct contact by the concerned defence minister and the chiefs of staff. Red tapism (#%&$ing bureaucrats!) Should be done away with or kept to a minimum. Whu don't the armed forces show sone guts and have a few "chats" with these IAS penpushers? Why don't their covert ops pay them a visit or two every now and then? Keep them interested and sincere in
their work? Why don't the 3 chiefs have a direct chat with the Defence Minister and tell him exactly what they want? And make sure they get it? Why? Why?

Avataran said...

I honestly don't understand why everyone wants to blame Antony for all the fracas that is happening. It is not in his hands if Officers do not follow SOPs or if submarine batteries are not replaced.

rustom said...

Those who jump up to dangling carrots are later made the scape goats ..MoD goes scot free..well after all the men in the armed forces are from the same society that sniff up to seniors..otherwise the MoD would have known its place as during the time of Carriappas and Manecshaws...

Anonymous said...

The rot that exists is deep at the highest echelons, both within the armed forces and much more at the Defense ministry.

For those who are sensitive about hearing -ve comments about AKA - the nirma white dhoti pls. go peddle your wares somewhere else!!! What credentials does he have, he has proven to be a curse and not a crusader against corruption. I hope we don't have a war coming soon one of these days, because if it does I will be the first to stand in line to shoot all these morons!!

Prodyut said...

The Defence Secretary should not be allowed to get into the "submarine" or "stealth " mode now.
If the submarine was sailing with another submarine 's batteries it is not because the Navy loves to change 200 batteries each weighing several hundred kilos. Was it, despite being legally valid, being a case of penny wise and pound foolish? Each cahnge will require connecting the harness and in a cramped submarine it is a potential source of error and tragedy. The Olympian mandarins must explain why the Navy has to scrimp on "running" stores.

Cactus | Lily said...

Surely, he's the "Submariner In Chief". He isn't fat enough to be a submarine...

Ankit said...

A K Antony == Scam-antony, Indecisive Tony, Blacklist Tony

IAF = Imported Air Force
IN = In-danger Navy
IA = Inflated Army
MoD = Ministry of Douchebags

That's how India's national security situation is as of now.

Anonymous said...

Sad. We have issues, it does not mean whole stuff be condemned. It s also a reflection on MOD, in specific on defence secretary. The role needs to rake charge and work with service chiefs to make things happen. Service chiefs remain public face of the Indian armed forces and everyone looks upon them to be flag bearer of Indian sovernignity