Security expert Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar (retd), distinguished fellow, Society for Policy Studies, said the accident on board the INS Sindhurakshak was "tragic and the loss of lives was anguishing" and it was "an unprecedented kind of accident".
The deep sea attack submarine, recently refurbished in Russia, suffered an unexplained explosion just after Tuesday midnight. The deafening blast was heard in the whole of south Mumbai.
Naval officials said the rapid spread of the blaze and the intensity of the explosions left the trapped 18 sailors, including three officers, with apparently no chance of escaping.Commodore Bhaskar said the loss of a front-line submarine will have an adverse impact on the modest force levels that India has as regards conventional submarines.
"To infer that this is a reflection on the credibility of the Indian submarine arm, or the reliability of the Russian suppliers, is misleading and counter-factual," Commodore Bhaskar told IANS.
He said that the deeper strand was the manner in which the submarine force level has been allowed to shrink. "And this in turn is a reflection of the manner in which military modernization and acquisition of platforms has become a victim of short-term political compulsions," he said.
"Notwithstanding the setback to the navy, the success of the launch of (aircraft carrier INS) Vikrant and attaining criticality apropos the reactor on (aircraft carrier INS) Arihant should point to the way ahead," he added.
Captain (retd) Alok Bansal, senior fellow, Centre for Land Warfare Systems (CLAWS), said the explosions and fire in the submarine was a huge setback for the navy.
"It is a blow to the navy, but it will not make such a difference as to endanger India's security," Capt Bansal said.
He said India had ordered new submarines and the projects should be expedited.INS Sindhurakshak was a diesel-electric submarine that returned home last year after a major refit at Russia's Zvezdochka shipyard. It displaces 2,300 tonnes, carries 52 crew members, has a top speed of 19 knots (35 km per hour) and a diving depth of 300 metres.
Rear Admiral (retd) K. Raja Menon said the incident was bad for navy as the submarine was most modern in its class and had been refurbished last year.He said the project to manufacture Scorpene submarines should be expedited.
The first of French-origin Scorpene submarines, being built under a transfer of technology contract at defence shipyard Mazagon Dock in Mumbai, is likely to be delivered to the navy by 2016 after extensions in dates of the completion of the project.
"It is a major setback and a tragedy as 18 people are missing. We have lost a submarine in peace time and it has reduced the navy's force levels," Admiral (retd) Arun Prakash said. He said the fire incident has put the submarine "more or less out of action".
Sources said the navy has now a fleet of 14 submarines including Russian kilo Class (naval diesel-electric) submarines and one nuclear submarine leased by Russia.
They said there was proposal for induction of six more submarines apart from the Scorpene submarines.
Three indigenous nuclear submarines are also planned for the Navy in the coming years.
--IANS (Posted on 14-08-2013)