India's apex decision making body for defence procurement has approved the shortlist of companies that will build six conventional submarines for the Indian Navy.
The Defence Ministry said that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had approved a shortlist of Indian Strategic Partners (SP) and the potential Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to construct submarines at the cost of over $7 billion under the ambitious strategic partnership model.
Sources said from the Indian side private firm Larsen & Toubro, and state-run Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited will partner with a foreign firm for the project.
DAC has rejected the joint bid by Adani and Hindustan Shipyard Limited on technical grounds. The council has also cleared the names of five foreign technology partners who applied to take part in the competition.
"The strategic Partnership Model aims at promoting India as a manufacturing hub for defence equipment, in addition to establishing an industrial and R&D eco-system capable of meeting the future requirements of the Armed Forces besides giving a boost to exports," the defence ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Indian Navy had formally launched the programme to construct six air-independent propulsion-enabled submarines under Project 75 (India) in 2017. The request for information was issued to six foreign shipyards – Rubin Design Bureau of Russia, Naval Group of France, Navantia of Spain, Saab of Sweden, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and ThyssenKrupp of Germany– under the strategic partnership model.
However, the Japanese side did not respond to the Indian invitation because of the conditions for the transfer of technology.
The strategic partnership model stipulates collaboration between one of India's private defence shipbuilders and a foreign manufacturer.
The Indian Navy had asked the selected manufacturers to provide operational details of their respective submarines with air-independent propulsion systems (AIP) and anti-surface, anti-submarine and land-attack capabilities.
Presently, the Indian Navy has nine Kilo-class and four Shishumar (Type 209/1500) class, one Kalvari (French Scorpene) class and one INS Chakra (Akula class nuclear sub) from Russia.
Under Project-75, the Indian Navy had finalised a contract with the French Naval Group to construct six diesel-electric submarines at an Indian shipyard and to date has commissioned one submarine under the project.
The Indian Navy assessed a requirement of at least 24 submarines to maintain its superiority over Bangladesh and Pakistan who are poised to deploy additional submarines sourced from China soon.
Last week, Admiral Karambir Singh said that New Delhi is keeping a close watch on the growing presence of the Chinese Navy in the Indian Ocean Region.
"We are all aware of the numbers, the tonnage, the number of ships, everything that is growing. We had seen this in the Indian Ocean region itself starting in 2008 when joined in the anti-piracy patrol. Before that, they weren't very obvious in the Indian Ocean region, but now you find that at any given time, there are seven to eight PLA warships in that area," the Indian Navy Chief said in New Delhi while speaking at the Raisina Dialogue on 15 January.