Terming as “scandalous” the Scorpene submarine project leak, Congress on Wednesday demanded a complete security audit of the Defence Ministry by a sitting Supreme Court judge even as it accused Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar of launching an “operation cover-up”.
The audit could be in the form of a commission of inquiry and should fix responsibility of the political executive, including that of the Defence Minister and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
Insisting that the inquiry should probe the Defence Minister and the Defence Ministry to see whether they had abdicated their responsibility, he said the leak has put a question mark on India’s maritime security.
Dubbing it as the “biggest defence disaster” of recent time, he said it has jeopardised the sole initiative to build six Scorpene submarines in collaboration with French company DCNS at a cost of US dollar 3.5 billion (Rs 23,500 crore approximately) by government-owned Mazagaon Dock Ship Builders Ltd at Mumbai.
“Despite the ‘Himalayan blunder’ that has deeply hurt India’s defence preparedness, the Modi government/Defence Minister are indulging in ‘operation cover-up’ instead of fixing responsibility,” he alleged.
Surjewala claimed that all concerned, including the Defence Minister and Indian Navy, are speaking in contradictory voices.
While Parrikar continues to describe the leaks as “hacking”, the navy states that the “source of leaks is overseas and not in India”, he said.
French Company DCNS has clearly hinted that leak may have taken place in India, he said.
With a coastline of 7517 kilometres to defend with merely 13 submarines and one nuclear submarine, the government appears to be living in denial, he said.
“It is in fact intriguing as to how ‘clean chits’ are being meted out without conducting a proper inquiry. For such an inquiry to be fair, it has to be headed by an independent neutral authority of the level of a sitting Supreme Court judge with officials from the armed forces, naval and Military Intelligence, IB or other specialised agencies as its members,” he said.
Surjewala contended that this is an “alarming” situation that requires a complete ‘security audit’ of Mazagaon Dock Ship Builders Limited as also of the Defence Ministry.
Such a security audit/commission of inquiry will only establish the source of the leak, which cannot be established by a mere denial on the part of either the Defence Minister or the Indian Navy, he said.
Maintaining that the Defence Minister cannot brush these issues under the carpet, he said that the responsibility of political executive, bureaucrats and officers need to be affixed for the unprecedented leaks that have harmed national interest irreparably.
More than 22,000 pages of top secret data on the capabilities of six highly advanced submarines have been leaked, raising alarm bells in the security establishment.