More than 22,000 pages of top secret data on the capabilities of six highly advanced submarines being built for the Indian Navy in Mumbai in collaboration with a French company have been leaked, ringing alarm bells in the security establishment.
The combat capability of the Scorpene submarines being built at Mazagon dock at a cost of USD 3.5 billion by French shipbuilder DCNS, went public when an Australian newspaper, "The Australian", put the details on the website.
Reacting with alacrity to the development, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who learnt about the leak at midnight, ordered Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lamba to go into the 'entire issue". A detailed report is also being sought by the Indian government from DCNS.
"What I understand is there is a hacking. So we will find out all this," Parrikar told reporters in Delhi.
The details leaked included what frequencies the submarines gather intelligence at, what levels of noise they make at various speeds and their diving depths, range and endurance — all sensitive information that is highly classified, the Australian said.
It said that 'Marked "Restricted Scorpene India", the DCNS documentsdetail the most sensitive combat capabilities of India’s submarine fleet and would provide an intelligence bonanza if obtained by India’s strategic rivals, such as Pakistan or China.'
Navy sources said the leak of data "was a matter of serious concern" but added that the document was dated and the Indian submarine had undergone "many changes" from the initial design the details of which have been leaked.
Terming the leak of classified documents as a "serious matter", DCNS, a French defence major, said in a statement that the issue is being thoroughly investigated by the French national authorities for defence security.
"This investigation will determine the exact nature of the leaked documents, the potential damages to DCNS customers as well as the responsibilities for this leakage," a statement by DCNS headquarters in Paris said.
French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler said authorities in France are taking the leak of data very seriously and that they will work in close cooperation with India.
Defence analyst Commodore Uday Bhaskar (Retd), Director of Society of Policy Studies, said if the veracity of the documents is proved then it definitely compromises the Indian platform. "This is so because the leakage of so much technical details compromises the submarines capability to stay undetected."
Terming as "scandalous" the Scorpene leak, opposition Congress demanded a complete security audit of the Defence Ministry by a sitting Supreme Court judge even as it accused Parrikar of launching an "operation cover-up". Former Defence Minister A K Antony demanded a high-level inquiry quickly.