KARACHI: The Pakistan Navy (PN) on Tuesday said it had thwarted an attempt by an Indian submarine to enter Pakistani territorial waters.
The latest development comes after an increase in tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
“The Pakistan Navy is always ready to guard its territorial waters and is capable of responding to any kind of aggression with full force,” said the navy.
“This great achievement has been a proof of Pakistan Navy’s superior capabilities.” The armed service further said that this is the second time since November 2016 that naval forces have caught the Indian Navy trying to enter the country’s territorial waters.
“The Indian submarine was not targeted keeping in view Pakistan’s policy of peace,” said a spokesperson from the PN and added that India must learn from this incident and “move towards peace”.
The video of the Indian submarine was made when it came upto periscope depth, however, the PN would have been tracking it for a longer time with the assistance of aerial anti-submarine warfare assets.
India’s undersea fleet
The bulk of the Indian Navy’s undersea fleet is composed of diesel-electric Kilo-class submarines, known as the Sindhughosh-class, and the Scorpene-class, known as the Kalvari-class.
The Indian Navy also operates a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the INS Arihant, which was manufactured locally after decades of delay.
Since the two countries are not at war, the Indian submarine was probably tasked with gathering intelligence and maintain station inside Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). If it had remained undetected, it would have been well-positioned to carry out aggressive actions against Pakistan’s maritime assets in the case of open hostilities between the two countries.
SSBNs are not tasked with such mission profiles as they are highly-valued assets. The Indian Navy would have tasked a Sindhughosh or a Kalvari-class submarine for the mission.
Being diesel-electric submarines, the submarines have the ability to reduce their sonar signature by running on their batteries, the downside being they need to surface to snorkel depth to recharge their batteries and use their diesel engines for propulsion and power needs – increasing their acoustic signature.
A senior PN officer who served on submarines, Vice Admiral (retd) Ahmed Tasneem also agreed and said the Indian submarine “surfaced as it had probably exhausted its batteries”.
Earlier in 2016, the PN successfully repelled an Indian submarine from entering the country’s territorial waters.
The unsuspecting submarine was detected and localised south of Pakistani coast on November 16, 2016. Despite the submarine’s desperate efforts to escape detection, it was continuously tracked by navy fleet units and pushed well clear of Pakistan waters.
How the Indo-Pak tensions escalated
Tensions escalated dramatically between Pakistan and India on February 14 when a young man – a native of Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) – rammed an explosives-laden car into an Indian military convoy, killing at least 44 soldiers.
India was quick to blame the state of Pakistan for the suicide bombing.PM Imran offered every possible help in the investigation, but India turned down the offer and whipped up war hysteria.
On February 26, the Indian Air Force violated Pakistani airspace. The country’s top civil and military leadership declared the violation of airspace by Indian fighter jets “uncalled for aggression” and decided that the country would respond at a “time and place of its choosing”.
On February 27, Pakistan announced it had shot down two Indian fighter jets that attempted to violate its airspace and captured an Indian pilot. The military’s media wing later released a video of the pilot, who introduced himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan bearing service number 27981.
Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a press conference that the armed forces had responsibly retaliated to Indian incursion by strucking a target few miles from an Indian military’s administrative unit to ensure there were no human life or collateral damage.“We decided to not hit a military target or endanger human life. We did not want to retaliate at the cost of regional peace. We do not want escalation,” he told reporters.
A few hours later, Prime Minister Imran Khan took the nation into confidence over the armed forces’ response. As escalating tensions fuelled concerns of all-out war between nuclear-tipped Pakistan, Imran warned of catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail.The premier ended his speech with another peace talks offer and cooperation in Pulwama attack investigation to India.
On February 28, the Foreign Office said it received a dossier on the Pulwama attack from the Indian government. It added that the government was deliberating whether to treat Abhinandan as a prisoner of war (POW) or apply any international convention.
In the evening, PM Imran addressed a joint session of the parliament and announced that Pakistan would release the captured pilot as a goodwill gesture to de-escalate tensions.
On March 1, Pakistan ‘as a goodwill gesture’ handed over to Indian authorities the captured IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as the nuclear-armed neighbours scaled back a confrontation that has prompted world powers to urge restraint.