Choosing French Submarines over German? : Rational decision or risking Pakistani defence?
By Farzana Shah
A German team is due in few days probably on August 5th according to sources to look into possibility of signing the accord for provision of U-214 submarines to Pakistan Navy.
However reports appearing in the media suggest that the deal may hit snags due to change of mind in the current Pakistani government over purchase of German submarines.
In 2008 Pakistan Navy under chief of navel staff Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir made efforts for including German 214 Class submarines in its fleet and owing to Navy’s persistent efforts, the government had approved plans for acquisition of these submarines to be built at Karachi Shipyard under transfer of technology programme.
The details were later worked out between the two countries when a Pakistan Navy delegation visited Germany in April.
However recently quoting Pakistani government sources, the Financial Times Deutschland says President Asif Zardari may overrule his military’s preference for the German subs to take up a “better offer” from France.
But what better submarines France can offer to Pakistan? That is a question to ponder because France has no better submarines to offer Pakistan at the moment whereas French are indeed not ready to offer us nuclear submarine.
What France has in store? :
There are three options 1. Scorpion, 2. Marlin and 3. Barracuda submarines. But again the Scorpions are not superior to U 214, neither these will be having any benefit for Pakistan because French company DCN is already going to provide Scorpion to Indian Navy ahead of Pakistan.
U-214 is way better than French design given to India. Marlin is just on drawing board and will take forever to go to prototype stage and then test and evaluation and finally induction into Pakistan Navy meanwhile India will have all its Scorpion in sea. DCN (Direction des Constructions Navales ), France will not be able to fulfill Pakistani order ahead of Indians. The success of Marlin, or weather or not it will be better than U-214 German sub cannot be predicted. Currently, U-214 for the best non-nuclear submarine in the world, and our friends in Turkey will soon produce it at home with the license of production.
Now the only option for Pakistan will be to ask for Barracuda submarine but it is unlikely that France will sell us nuclear submarine. Barracuda is a nuclear powered submarine and France does not currently allow the sale of nuclear-propelled submarines.
Despite having French Agosta-90B submarines, the Pakistani Navy opted for purchasing German Torpedoes for fitting to Agosta-90B due to the superior German technology.
Pakistan Navy needs German submarines because the German U-214 subs are far better than the French Scorpion.
If the current government goes for inferior quality French submarines then it will indeed give weight to suspicion of many Pakistanis who see bribes as main factor behind any irrational decisions viz viz defence deals.
Already the Pakistani senators have demanded in an incamera briefing from Pakistani Naval chief in the Senate.
Whereas some eyebrows have also been raised over the fact that foreign secretary Salman Bashir in the current government of Zardari is the brother of Naval Chief, Noman Bashir and there are also some reports that PIA chairman is going to be named Pakistani envoy to France. Some political pundits see such an appointment an attempt to muster a deal for French submarines.
On the other hand submarine acquisition project (SMAP) a group composed of Naval officers who have recommended U-214 submarines over other options after extensive study has been disbanded and the officers have been posted out at different stations.
Though earlier the Germans have delayed the deal due to political situation of Pakistan but can kickoff cutting of hull for first submarine immediately after signing the deal.
In such a situation going for something which does not fulfill the requirement of Pakistan Navy would be tantamount to putting the national defence at risk.
There is no reason not to go for German submarines specially when Berlin even granted federal export credit guarantees worth nearly $1.4 billion for the purchase of the same.
Farzana Shah is a Pakistani journalist based at Peshawar and also a member of the Pakistan Defence Forum. You can reach her at janashah @gmail.com.