New Delhi: India launched on Sunday its first nuclear-powered submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles, completing a nuclear triad encompassing land, air and sea, officials said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a “historic milestone in the country’s defence preparedness” as the 6,000-tonne ‘INS Arihant’ (destroyer of enemies) was named in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
The submarine, the first of five planned, is powered by an 85MW nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kmph under water, according to defence officials. It will be armed with torpedoes and ballistic missiles, and carry a crew of 95.
Historic moment: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur at the launch of INS Arihant in Visakhapatnam on Sunday. PTI
“We don’t have any aggressive designs nor do we seek to threaten anyone,” ‘PTI’ quoted Singh as saying at the launch. “We seek an external environment in our region and beyond that is conducive to our peaceful development and protection of our value systems.”
India is now part of an exclusive group of nations—including China, France, the US, Britain and Russia— which own such submarines.
The submarine, the first of two similar submarines to be built indigenously with technical help from Russia, will undergo sea trials before its formal induction in 2015, defence officials said. The country already has fighter aircraft and missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Experts say India is modernizing its Armed Forces and is focusing on improving its naval fleet with new ships and submarines to counter the strategic interest of China in the region.
China is India’s biggest trade partner in Asia. But India, already wary of China’s growing military might, fears its giant rival wants to strategically encircle India as Beijing continues to supply weapons to India’s neighbours, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“The sea is increasingly becoming relevant in the context of India’s security interests and we must readjust our military preparedness to this changing environment,” Singh said.
(Bappa Majumdar of ‘Reuters’ contributed to this story.)