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India's navy blues
Posted:Dec 13, 2016
 
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Shipyard accidents happen, so perhaps it’s wrong to make too much of last week’s unprecedented toppling in a Mumbai dockyard of the guided-missile frigate INS Betwa, which killed two sailors and could leave one of India’s warships unsalvageable. But given the frequency with which the Indian navy is experiencing similar mishaps, the incident is a reminder that New Delhi has far to go if it’s to project credible power across the Indo-Pacific.
 
Among the previous accidents was a 2013 explosion in the torpedo compartment of a submarine docked in Mumbai, which killed 18 sailors and sank the ship. A fire on another submarine months later killed two officers and led to the resignation of India’s top navy commander. The Betwa ran aground in 2014 as she was entering the Mumbai naval base.
 
India is also having a hard time building its own aircraft carriers that would curb its reliance on Russian models and employ technologies developed jointly with the U.S. As the Journal reported last month, U.S. engineers who visited the INS Vikrant carrier under construction in the port of Kochi in February found it years behind schedule, with “no small missile system to defend itself, a limited ability to launch sorties and no defined strategy for how to use the ship in combat.”
 
An Indian government audit in July scored the Kochi shipyard for having “no previous experience of warship construction.” It also found faults in the Vikrant’s jet-launch systems and gear boxes and assessed that the ship won’t be operational by the 2018 date promised by India’s military.
 
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The Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2016
 
 
 
 
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