Pakistan’s Navy claims that it has spotted and warned an unidentified Indian Navy submarine in the Arabian Sea on March 4. In a March 5 press statement, the Navy claims that it “detected and blocked” the Indian submarine “from entering Pakistani waters.” The boat was purported detected in Pakistan’s maritime zone.
“The submarine could have been easily engaged and destroyed had it not been Pakistan’s policy to exercise restraint in the face of Indian aggression and to give peace a chance to prevail.” The service added that it is keeping a close watch on other Indian Navy units stating that the detected sub is one of “the latest submarines of [the] Indian Navy.” Pakistan also released video footage to support its claim (video).
India rejected Pakistani claims. “[T]he Indian Navy remains deployed as necessary to protect national maritime interests,” the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a March 5 statement. “Over the past several days, we have witnessed Pakistan indulging in false propaganda and spread of misinformation. The Indian Navy does not take cognizance of such propaganda. Our deployments remain undeterred.”
Indian media claims that the video released on March 5 was an old one. While at least some of the footage appears to be recycled, parts of it could be authentic. The submarine class depicted in the infrared (IR) portion of the video appears to be a Scorpene-class (Kalvari-class) diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK) with a Series 30 SOM, a non-penetrating search optronic mast and a series 20 APS penetrating periscope up.
Interestingly, as Indian defense analysts noted, the on-screen display of the imagery released, purportedly showing the Indian submarine, indicates that the video was taken approximately 415 kilometers from Karachi, and 158 kilometers from Gwadar — a considerable distance from Pakistani territorial waters. It is also unclear how a Pakistani surveillance aircraft was able to approach the Indian submarine at such a relatively close distance.
It still would put the Indian submarine in Pakistan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, military activities in EEZs are not prohibited. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), according to the interpretation of the majority of signatory countries, gives coastal states the right to regulate economic activities, but it does not give states the right to regulate foreign military activities in the parts of their EEZs beyond their 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.
Notably, India and Pakistan have both been requiring prior consent for foreign military activities in their EEZ in the past, which, for example, the U.S. Navy has repeatedly ignored.
The Diplomat was not able to verify the authenticity of the video released by Pakistan’s Navy.
India launched the third of six planned Kalvari-class SSKs on January 31, 2018. This January, the Defense Acquisition Council, the MoDs principal procurement body, approved the procurement of six additional SSKs under the so-called Project-75 India (Project-75 I).
Pakistan is currently upgrading its fleet of three Agosta 90B-class (aka Khalid-class) SSKs, unlike Indian SSKs, each fitted with air-independent propulsion systems, which makes detecting the subs much harder. Furthermore, China is slated to supply the Pakistan Navy with eight modified Yuan-class SSKs by 2028 for an estimated $4-5 billion.