Fresh details of the Scorpene submarine’s combat management systems were put in the public domain on Thursday, overshadowing the Indian Navy’s attempts to downplay the data leak that may have implications for the country’s underwater warfare capabilities.
The Australian newspaper – that exposed the leak on Tuesday — uploaded more documents from a leaked cache of 22,400 classified paper from French shipbuilder DCNS, which is helping India build six Scorpene submarines under a Rs 23,562-crore ($3.5 billion) deal.
The nine new pages of documents were heavily redacted by the newspaper but provided information on the capabilities of the submarine’s sonar system and targeting and torpedo systems. The earlier documents had crucial details of the submarine’s combat capabilities, though redacted.
As with the earlier uploads, the new documents were marked “Restricted Scorpene India”, which the French government said on Thursday were stolen and not leaked.
The Australian said the leaked data was “removed from DCNS by a former sub-contractor in 2011 and taken to a private company in Southeast Asia before being passed to a branch of that company in a second Southeast Asian nation”.
“A disk containing the data filed was then posted in regular mail to a company in Australia,” the report said. It added that the leak was not thought to have come from India.
It implied that individuals or firms in three countries, including Australia, had access to the highly classified information on the Scorpene submarines.
The navy, however, said in a statement, “The documents that have been posted on the website by an Australian news agency have been examined and do not pose any security compromise as the vital parameters have been blacked out.” The statement was issued before the second set of documents was uploaded.
Sources said the navy reached the conclusion by carrying out a preliminary analysis of just three sets of papers out of the 22,400 that were leaked.
“That’s a bad statement. I am surprised the navy has jumped to that conclusion by analysing a bunch of papers with some redacted text. A far deeper analysis in required,” said strategic affairs expert and retired rear admiral Raja Menon.
Australian journalist Cameron Stewart, who broke the data leak scandal, also disputed the navy’s claim.
“There is confusion in India about the leaked submarine docs. None of the 22,400 docs are redacted, all sensitive figures are there in full (sic),” he tweeted.
Throughout the day India mounted a flurry of diplomatic activity and appointed a high-level panel to evaluate the impact of the data leak.
“The Indian Navy has taken up the matter with director general of armament of the French government expressing concern over this incident and has requested the French government to investigate this incident with urgency and share their findings with the Indian side.”
It said an internal audit of procedures was underway to rule out any security compromise and added that the “matter is being taken up with concerned foreign governments through diplomatic channels to verify the authenticity of the reports”.
The defence ministry has formed a high-level committee to carry out a “detailed assessment of (the) potential impact” of the leak and the navy is taking steps “to mitigate any probable security compromise.”
The Australian had said the documents could prove an “intelligence bonanza” for Pakistan and China.
The first Scorpene-class submarines built at Mumbai’s state-run Mazagon Dock Limited is expected to be inducted early next year.