After such a long wait, India’s navy is about to take delivery of one of the world’s stealthiest and most deadly fighting tools: the INS Kalvari, an attack submarine named after a deep-sea tiger shark.

The commissioning later this month of the Scorpene class submarine is a milestone in India’s effort to rebuild its depleted underwater fighting force, and the first of six on order.

It comes as China’s military expands its fleet to nearly 60 submarines, compared to India’s 15 , and increases its forays into the Indian Ocean in what New Delhi strategists see as a national security challenge.

The official opening in July of China’s first naval base at Djibouti at the western end of the Indian Ocean, recent submarine sales to Pakistan and Bangladesh and a visit last year of a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine to Karachi, have also exposed how unprepared India’s navy is to meet underwater challenges.

Pushpan Das, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation’s National Security Program was quoted saying, “The lack of long-term planning and procurement commitment in defense acquisition plans can be considered tantamount to negligence”.  India needs to “counter increasing PLA-N activities in the region,” he said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Nitin Wakankar would not comment on the Indian Navy’s submarine fleet plan.

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