The navy chiefs of India, Australia, Malaysia, Chile and Brazil – countries that operate variants of the Scorpene or have ordered the submarine – could end up discussing the leak scandal during an upcoming symposium in the US, a source told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
The International Sea Power Symposium (ISS), to be hosted by the US Navy from September 21-23, will bring together naval leaders from around the world to discuss significant maritime issues.
This will be the first time after the Scorpene leak story broke that the navy chiefs of the countries concerned about the Scorpene programme will take part in a global naval gathering.
The biennial symposium will be held at the US Naval War College in Newport. Its last edition in 2014 was attended by 170 representatives from 113 countries.
“The symposium has its own structure with focus being on maritime security challenges and future trends but the Scorpene leak could be discussed on the sidelines. It’s a hot naval topic,” the source said.
The ISS attendees include chiefs of the navies and coast guards from around the world. It has been a regular event since 1969.
Australian journalist Cameron Stewart, who broke the Scorpene story and has accessed 22,400 leaked documents, told HT last week the material posted online by his newspaper was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. He cautioned India that the data’s interception by foreign intelligence agencies in its original form could be damaging.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said the revelations were not a “big worry” but India was prepared for the worst.
Six Scorpene submarines are being built in India in collaboration with French shipbuilder DCNS under a Rs 23,562-crore project.
The government has sought a report from DCNS on the leak that details key capabilities of the submarines, including the frequencies at which they gather intelligence, their diving depths, range and endurance, and specifications of their torpedo launch and combat systems.
India has written to French authorities to urgently probe the leak and share the findings. A panel headed by a vice admiral is carrying out detailed assessment of the potential impact of the leak on India’s Scorpene programme.
“The extent of the damage will be known only after the navy has examined every single document that has been leaked,” a senior naval officer said.