The country's defence establishment has rejected Russian media reports that India allowed US military officials on board the nuclear-powered submarine INS Chakra, which has been leased from Russia for 10 years under a $900 million deal.
Though there was no official statement, sources said there was "no question" of letting US officials or "anyone else" near INS Chakra, the Akula-II class submarine inducted by the Indian Navy in April 2012, in violation of the terms of agreement inked with Russia. "This is a disinformation campaign being carried out by some vested interests," said a source.
Interestingly, it comes at a time when New Delhi is finalizing talks with Moscow to acquire another nuclear-powered submarine on lease for over $1.5 billion after it agreed to procure four Grigorivich-class stealth frigates - two will be built in India — for around $4 billion from Russia, as was earlier reported by TOI.
INS Chakra, which does not carry nuclear-tipped missiles due to international treaties, is currently undergoing repairs at its base at Visakhapatnam. There was some damage to the tiles covering the submarine's sonar dome.
A 13-member US delegation headed by Rear Admiral Brian Antonio, which came to India for a meeting of the Joint Working Group on Aircraft Carrier Technology Co-operation (JWGACTC) from October 29 to November 3, did however board aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya for a four-hour brief on Indian aircraft carrier operations on the high seas.
India had commissioned the 44,400-tonne INS Vikramaditya, or the refitted Russian Admiral Gorshkov, in November 2013 after paying Russia $2.33 billion. "The two cases are very different. INS Vikramaditya is owned by India. INS Chakra, in turn, is only being operated by the Indian Navy on lease from Russia. Moreover, nuclear submarines and their operations are kept secret," said the source.
Russian news portal Kommersant on Thursday claimed the Indian Navy had permitted a US technical crew to inspect INS Chakra, saying the "unprecedented scandal" threatened "to seriously complicate the negotiations on the lease of the second nuclear submarine, and on other projects in the field of military-technical cooperation (between India and Russia)".
But on Friday, another Russian news portal, NEWS.ru, asserted that "French lobbyists" had "an ulterior role in spreading misinformation to further their own chances of selling a nuclear-powered attack submarine to India".
India had commissioned INS Arihant, the country's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine with nuclear-tipped missiles, last year towards its long-standing ambition to have an operational nuclear weapons triad - the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea. Three more follow-on submarines are being built after INS Arihant under the secretive Rs 90,000 crore Advanced Technology Vessel programme at Vizag.