Chennai: Later this month, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will launch India’s second indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Aridhaman.
Following its launch, the new vessel will undergo sea trials and will be inducted into service no later than 2019. A nuclear sub is something only a few countries can boast of. In fact, the induction of INS Arihant into service in 2016 made India the only country apart from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to operate a homemade nuclear U-boat.
INS Aridhaman will carry twice as many missiles as INS Arihant besides travelling faster under water. It is fitted with eight launch tubes unlike its elder sister Arihant, which has only four. Further, experts say the new sub will carry K-15 and (the newer) K-4 ballistic missiles as does INS Arihant. K-4 is an intermediate range ballistic missile that can hit targets as far as 3500 km.
Aridhaman’s launch comes at a time of growing tensions in the Indian Ocean region. Analysts say there has been a spike in the Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Just days after India objected to China’s construction of a road on the Doklam plateau, India Today reported that a Chinese submarine surfaced in the Indian Ocean waters. Although the timing is interesting, it would be a mistake to ignore the larger picture.
For quite some time now, China has been ratcheting up its presence in the region. Abhijit Singh, a former naval officer who heads the Maritime Policy Initiative at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, said, “Since January this year, China has been able to establish a strong military and economic presence in the Indian Ocean region, with many South Asian states bending over backwards to accommodate Beijing’s regional initiatives.”
Strategic experts warn that China would use its superior naval might to choke India in the Indian Ocean in the event of a conflict. China’s growing trade with countries in Africa and West Asia means that maintaining access to the Indian Ocean is a priority for Beijing. However, there is always a possibility that India and the US, which maintains a significant presence in the Indian Ocean, may see this Chinese naval activity as a threat to their own interests.
Further, the launch of INS Aridhaman comes just months after China announced the start of the sea trials of its first domestically built aircraft carrier. Locked in competition, New Delhi sees no option but to boost its own capability. One way of doing so is by building its own nuclear sub.