NEW DELHI — India has ordered checks on the weapons safety systems of all its submarines after a deadly explosion on a vessel last week which is thought to have killed 18 crewmen, its defense minister said Monday.
A.K. Antony also said naval divers were yet to fully access the Russian-built INS Sindhurakshak which sank in a Mumbai harbor last Wednesday after a series of explosions in which munitions ignited.
"Extensive checks on weapons-related safety systems and standard operating procedures on all operational submarines of the Indian navy have been ordered," Antony told parliament.
India currently has nine functional Russian-built and four German-origin diesel-fired submarines besides a nuclear-powered submarine which Moscow has leased to the Indian navy.
The fully-armed submarine is resting on the bottom of the harbor and Antony said divers and engineers were struggling to re-float it because of holes in its previously water-right compartments.
"Globally-renowned professional salvage agencies have been approached and they are undertaking the study of salvage operations," Antony told parliament's upper house.
"There is also an offer of help from Russia where the refit and upgrade had been undertaken," he added.
The disaster, the navy's worst since the sinking of a frigate by a Pakistani submarine in 1971, has cast a shadow over India's defense capabilities as it seeks to counter a military build-up by an increasingly assertive China.
Just days before, India had launched its first domestically-built aircraft carrier and began sea trials for the first Indian-made nuclear submarine, trumpeted as a "giant stride" for the country.
In February 2010, the INS Sindhurakshak suffered a fire while docked in Visakhapatnam city in southern India, killing a 24-year-old sailor.