‘It isn’t an unmitigated disaster’

Retired officer says initial hasty response could have been avoided

Gulf News

Dubai: In spite of the reams of newsprint and hours of television debate that the ‘Scorpene leak’ has generated over the last fortnight or so, Commodore (retired) C. Uday Bhaskar of the Indian Navy still believes that the extent of the leaked information isn’t all that damaging.

Sharing his views with Gulf News from New Delhi, Commodore (retired) Uday Bhaskar, who is currently the director of the Society for Policy Studies in the Indian capital, said that perhaps the only area that could be of some concern are the leaked details on propeller/propulsion data of the submarines that DCNS is building for Indian Navy. Following are excerpts:

GULF NEWS: When the Scorpene leak first came to light, DCNS tried to say that the data was leaked at India’s end. Doesn’t this go against corporate ethics? Blaming someone without even checking who is responsible ...

COMMODORE C. UDAY BHASKAR: Yes it does … and to my mind, this was a case of hasty, panicky initial response by the French company. It could have been avoided.

How damaging can the leak be from the point of view of India’s naval preparedness? To what extent has the future and battle-readiness of the Scorpene-class submarines been compromised?

This kind of information, to the extent that one has seen in the media, is not damaging. Much of the acoustics and electro-magnetic and thermal characteristics are established only after a submarine is fully operational and ordnance-capable. However, the area that may have been compromised is the propeller/propulsion data. But even here, I would not describe it as an unmitigated disaster, as some commentary seems to suggest.

Should India scrap the entire contract with DCNS?

No. That would be very imprudent and feckless.

In this age of cyberhacks, online data theft and surfeit of defence contractors and subcontractors, how secure are defence deals and defence hardware manufacturing? What precautionary steps can be taken to avoid leaks?

Both sides, the suppliers and the buyers, should have appropriate agreements in the contract. They ought to have faith and trust in each other’s security protocol, carry out simulated hacking operations and ensure that critical data is kept within known loops, while at the same time maintaining a balance between data-sharing and dissemination on one hand and security stringency on the other.