Navy chief DK Joshi quits after submarine accident

NEW DELHI Wed Feb 26, 2014 8:22pm IST

An elevated view shows the Indian Navy ships docked at the naval dockyard in Mumbai August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash/Files

An elevated view shows the Indian Navy ships docked at the naval dockyard in Mumbai August 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash/Files

Related Topics

A statue of the Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, is carried in a taxi to a place of worship on the first day of the ten-day-long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai August 29, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Ganesh Chaturthi

During Ganesh Chaturthi idols will be taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, and will be immersed in a river or the sea in accordance with Hindu faith.  Slideshow 

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's navy chief resigned on Wednesday, taking personal responsibility for a string of operational incidents, the latest of which saw smoke sweep a submarine with two officers still missing.

The government said in a statement that it had accepted the resignation of Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi, who will be replaced on an acting basis by Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral RK Dhowan.

A search continued for the two officers after smoke filled parts of a Russian-built submarine on a training exercise off the Mumbai coast in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The accident comes months after a dockside blast in Mumbai killed all 18 aboard another submarine last August, raising concerns over India's ageing fleet and crew training.

Seven members of the 94-strong crew were evacuated after inhaling smoke aboard the diesel-powered INS Sindhuratna.

Commander Rahul Sinha, a naval spokesman, said the source of the smoke had been removed, but declined to give details.

"When there is a fire in a submarine, the smoke is extremely toxic. There will be time before we enter the compartments completely," Sinha said. The two officers could not be accounted for more than 12 hours after the incident.

Without apportioning direct blame, the government said that Joshi had taken "moral responsibility for the accidents and incidents which have taken place during the past few months".

TRAINING QUESTIONED

Defence analysts said submarine crew members in the Indian navy were not getting enough training on one type of vessel before moving to another, increasing risks that minor incidents could have fatal consequences.

"It's a very ominous situation to be in," said Uday Bhaskar, a fellow at Delhi's National Maritime Foundation. "The Indian navy is going through a blighted phase."

Handling a ship comes with experience and young officers weren't getting the time needed on smaller vessels before moving onto bigger ones, said Bharat Karnad, a senior fellow of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research.

"You're beginning to see a trend and it's not a happy situation," said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

Although India has been operating submarines for decades, their numbers are dwindling with delays in procurement since the turn of the century, Rajagopalan noted.

Older submarines were being retired without being replaced with new ones, and the top political leadership had washed its hands off the matter, she said.

India's navy has had far fewer accidents than the air force, which has been dogged for years by crashes of Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.

However, most of the country's fleet of more than a dozen submarines is in urgent need of modernisation. Efforts to build a domestic arms industry have meanwhile made slow progress, with India still the world's largest weapons importer.

The INS Sindhuratna, a Soviet-built Kilo class vessel, was commissioned in 1988.

After smoke was spotted aboard the submarine at about 6 am (0030 GMT) on Wednesday, crew members sealed the compartments and rescuers airlifted the seven who had inhaled smoke to a naval hospital where their condition is stable, said Sinha.

The submarine was still seaworthy and was being ventilated, said Capt. D.K. Sharma, a naval spokesman.

An investigation was being opened into the cause of the incident which appeared to be less serious than the dockside submarine blast in Mumbai last August.

In that incident, an accidental weapons detonation and fire killed everyone on board the INS Sindhurakshak. It was the most serious maritime loss for India since a 1971 war with Pakistan.

(Additional reporting by Zeba Siddiqui in Mumbai, Editing by Douglas Busvine and Ralph Boulton)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (1)
muralisk wrote:
Admiral DK Joshi has done the right think by owning up moral responsibility. But its a crying shame that the political class doesn’t own up in similar fashion. Its disgusting to see our jawans are killed at LOC and yet there is no moral responsibility by the defense minister. Shame on our political class.

Feb 26, 2014 10:26am IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Pharma Sector

Pharma Sector

In race for bigger margins, drug makers willing to lose the India "advantage".  Full Article 

Markets This Month

Markets This Month

Tata Motors, M&M top Sensex gainers  Full Article 

Jan Dhan Yojna

Jan Dhan Yojna

Modi: Banking for all to end "financial untouchability".  Full Article 

Tracking Monsoon

Tracking Monsoon

Monsoon forecast to be better for crops next week  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage