The Navy’s hunt for a new class of mine-hunting warships has got responses from Italy and Russia, after a setback at the last minute with a South Korean firm not agreeing to terms for constructing a dozen vessels under an estimated Rs 32,000-crore ‘Make in India’ project.
With minesweepers being identified as one its most critical deficiencies, the Navy is also believed to be sending a team to Australia to examine a set of used vessels that are being upgraded to modern standards.
Minesweepers are specialised warships that are used to clear harbours and other critical areas of mines laid by enemy submarines and vessels. While the Navy had 12 of them in active service at one point, this strength is now reduced to the lone INS Kozhikode that is also scheduled for decommissioning soon.
India has been trying unsuccessfully since 2005 to find replacements, with its dealings with South Korean firm Kangnam hitting controversy at least twice. In the first instance, the Korean firm was dropped by the UPA government after allegations surfaced that it had appointed ‘consultants’ for the contract, in a violation of Indian procurement norms.
While the company was not banned from work in India, it managed to get back into the fray with the Manohar Parrikar-led defence ministry that decided to nominate the Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) for the contract. However, earlier this year, negotiations with the company – which was selected on a single vendor basis — broke down after it failed to meet technology transfer commitments.