Germany has taken a pragmatic step according to the changing geo-political scenario and decided to supply new-generation conventional submarines to India. For the European economic giant, the “business” alliance with the South Asian country is a notable strategic shift, as it shows an awareness of the Angela Merkel government of the growing importance of India in world politics.
A couple of days ago, Berlin hinted that it was ready to strike a military deal with New Delhi under which India would receive new-generation submarines with exceptional underwater endurance. In the past, the German government had refused to sign such deals with India. However, India’s emergence as a great power has prompted the Merkel administration to change its policy.
According to sources close to the German Defence Ministry, Germany is even ready to manufacture the HDW 214 submarines in India. A senior German official said that India would have to pay around INR 600,000 million (USD 1 = INR 66.5822) for six such vessels. The official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Berlin recently sent a formal proposal in this regard to the Indian Defence Ministry, giving assurances on fair price, technology transfer and quality.
Meanwhile, senior officials of Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, the German company that manufactures the submarine, have refused to make any comment on the deal. Thyssenkrupp officials said that they were “not in a position” to discuss the issue and two governments would make an official announcement only after finalisation of the deal. They further said that Thyssenkrupp was interested in offering 214 class boats, with “robust transfer of technology, training and meeting offset obligations”, to New Delhi. A company spokesperson told an Indian national daily: “We define this as a ‘no-holds barred’ transfer of technology in line with Narendra Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ push.” Indian officials, too, maintain secrecy of the deal, saying that the product will certainly meet the Indian Navy’s requirements.
Indian defence experts believe that Germany has changed its stance mainly because of Russia and France, which are trying hard to boost defence ties with India. To capture the Indian defence market, Berlin has offered new-generation conventional submarines with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) – a technology that allows non-nuclear submarines to remain underwater for several days at a stretch.
The AIP technology helps diesel submarines operate without having to surface or use a snorkel to access atmospheric oxygen, allowing the watercraft to remain submerged for extended periods. Usually, submarines need to surface in order to replenish oxygen needed to burn the fuel. At the same time, the technology helps submarines preserve the advantages of conventional diesel electric power and carry out operations in a stealthy manner by reducing their chances of being detected by anti-submarine ships and aircraft.