Indian Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh, left, Navy Chief Adm. Devendra Kumar Joshi, center, and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, right, pay homage at a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Joshi resigned after a fatal submarine fire Feb. 26. (AFP via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — Indian Navy Chief Adm. D.K. Joshi has resigned, claiming “moral responsibility” for the Feb. 26 fire of a Russian-made Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhuratna.
“Taking moral responsibility for the accidents and incidents which have taken place during the past few months, the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral D.K. Joshi today resigned from the post of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS),” says the official release of the Ministry of Defense.
The government accepted the resignation with immediate effect.
“The Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral R.K. Dhowan will be discharging the duties of officiating CNS, pending appointment of regular CNS,” the release adds.
India’s Navy, already struggling with a depleted submarine force, received another setback when the submarine INS Sindhuratna filled with smoke following a fire during the early hours of Feb. 26, nearly 80 kilometers from Mumbai, killing two officers and injuring seven others, said an Indian Navy source. In August 2013, the Navy lost another Kilo, INS Sindhurakshak, in a fire that gutted the boat and killed all 18 crew on board.
While no Indian Navy official would officially comment on the accident involving the Sindhuratna, which had undergone a complete overhaul in December, the Navy source said the submarine is partially damaged and that the cause of the fire is unknown.
After last year’s loss of the Sindhurakshak, which had been upgraded by Russia a year earlier, India’s submarine fleet had fallen to nine, from a high of 21 in the 1980s. The current figure is critically low compared with China’s submarine fleet of about 64, said an Indian Navy official.
French-made Scorpene submarines being license-produced at Mazagon Docks Ltd. are nearly 36 months behind schedule, and the first of the six submarines is not expected before early 2016. The Ministry of Defense has considered but has not yet floated a global tender to buy six conventional submarines with air independent propulsion technology for $12 billion, despite the project being cleared in late 2010. ■