(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Neeraj Chauhan)
The navy leak case may be bigger than what last week’s release on an investigation into the leak of information regarding the upgrade of submarines suggested, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) probe into the Naval leak case, in which a serving Commander was arrested, has revealed that “peripheral” information on at least three other projects of the Indian Navy was leaked over the past year, they added.
More people, including some navy officers, both serving and retired, and some other people are likely to be arrested in coming days, the people said. The investigation agency arrested five people, including a Commander-rank serving officer, two retired navy personnel and two others in September for allegedly leaking confidential information related to the upgrade of Russian-origin Kilo class submarines. It is alleged that the Commander shared crucial details about the ongoing modernisation project of Kilo class submarines with the two retired officers in return for money. The information about the case was made public last week.
Sharing details of investigation, which is being monitored at the highest level, a senior officer said it is likely that two or three groups were involved in leaking information in lieu of bribes, and that this was going on for at least a year. The people involved, “had access to only peripheral information regarding these projects,” said a second officer. “Highly classified data was luckily not compromised.” “We are trying to ascertain if all these groups involved were connected with each other and if the payments were made at the behest of some anti-India elements,” added this person.
Both officers refused to divulge the details of the other projects whose information may have been leaked. The agency may not register separate First Information Reports (FIRs) but rather file separate charge sheets against the suspects in the existing case, the officers said. The Indian Navy said on October 26 that an investigation related to the alleged leak of information of an administrative and commercial nature had come to light and was being investigated by the appropriate government agency.
The navy is also conducting an internal inquiry in the matter, which is being led by a vice admiral to find out how the information leaked despite security protocols and advisories, and how lacunae, if any can be fixed. India operates eight Kilo class submarines, four HDW German origin submarines and three Scorpene submarines built in India under technology transfer from France (three more Scorpenes will join the fleet in the future). The navy also operates an indigenous nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant.