DEFENCE MINISTER Manohar Parrikar on Friday said that the Scorpene documents leak is “not a big worry” but there are a “few pockets of concerns”.
He said the Navy had assured him that most of the leaked documents on the Scorpene submarines — posted by The Australian newspaper on its website — were not of concern. “We are going by the assumption of the worst-case scenario. I think there is not a big worry because we will be able to put things in the right perspective,” Parrikar added.
Responding to a question whether the Rafale deal would be affected because of the leak, Parrikar asked whether one should stop using French products just because a leak has taken place in one company.
“(Should) You stop using all products from France? Obviously, the companies are different, the type of equipment is different and an incident should be punished with whatever contractual punishment is there. It is not intentionally leaked,” Parrikar said.
Defence ministry sources said that no data pertaining to weapon systems of the submarines had been leaked, as the weapons have been contracted to a different contractor.
However, Cameron Stewart, Associate Editor of The Australian, said on Twitter that his newspaper would put up the weapons data on the website on Monday.
The sources said the documents put up on the website so far were commercial in nature and did not cause concern. Moreover, they predate the time when India signed the contract with DCNS, the French company, in 2005. The version of documents on the website, the sources said, is different from the one held by the Navy. However, a high-powered committee in the defence ministry is studying the documents said to have been leaked, and is “prepared for the worst while hoping for the best”.
In the worst-case scenario, the sources said, adequate mitigating measures will be taken to overcome areas of concern. But such concerns will be minimal, they added. They are awaiting a response from France before arriving at a conclusion.
On Wednesday, the Navy approached the French Directorate General of Armament to share details of their inquiry into the leak of 22,400 documents pertaining to Project-75, under which six Scorpene class submarines are being made at Mazagon Docks Ltd. India has reportedly also approached the Australian government through diplomatic sources for more information.
Parrikar said that sea trials of the first submarine had just started, and the data collected after the trials would be of importance. Explaining this, defence ministry sources said that the documentation of even the first of the six submarines, INS Kalavari, would only be completed six months after the sea trials are completed.
The other five submarines are still under construction and as each submarine is a customised product, each individual documentation will be prepared even later. Sources said that the basic design of a submarine has been customised by India through various products chosen from other vendors. The data leaked so far, they said, will have little bearing on the actual data of the submarines once they are put in operation.
Taking the example of leaked radar data, sources said that the radar is used by a submarine only for navigation — while coming in and going out of a busy harbour. It is never used during operations and similar equipment is available for commercial ships.
On the question of invoking contractual clauses with DCNS because of the leak, sources said this can only be done after culpability is established. This would need completion of the French inquiry and its study by the high-powered committee.