France assures India support on Scorpene document leak, naval contractor DCNS suspects 'economic warfare'

France assures India support on Scorpene document leak, naval contractor DCNS suspects 'economic warfare'

An employee (in photo) looks at the propeller of a Scorpene submarine at the industrial site of shipbuilder DCNS in France on April 26, 2016. Photograph: (Reuters)

Paris, France Aug 25, 2016, 10.02 AM (IST)

France is working closely with India on the Scorpene document leak case, said French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler on Wednesday. 

"The French authorities are taking the matter very very seriously. We are working on it very seriously with DCNS, with the (unclear). And we are trying to access the extent, the nature, the sensitivity of information of.. may have been leaked. And we will work in this very very close cooperation and full transparency with the Indian authorities," said Ziegler in southern Bengaluru city.

Meanwhile, French naval contractor DCNS has also said it may have been the victim of "economic warfare" after secrets about its Scorpene submarines being built in India were leaked.

'Investigating the impact' 

An investigation has been launched by India after The Australian newspaper reported a leak of more than 22,000 pages outlining the secret capabilities of six submarines that French builder DCNS has designed for the Indian Navy.

The submarines are being built, for an estimated cost of $3.5 billion according to media reports, at a state-run shipyard in western Mumbai and the first one was expected to join service by the end of the year, the first step in the navy's effort to rebuild its dwindling fleet.

 

India has a fleet of 13 ageing submarines, only half of which are operational at any time, opening up a major gap with China which is expanding its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.

The leak has raised doubts about the security of DCNS's submarine project in Australia where it is locked in exclusive negotiations after seeing off rivals for a A$50 billion ($38 billion) contract to build the Barracuda next generation of submarines.

The breadth of detail in the documents creates a major strategic problem for India, Malaysia and Chile, all of which operate the same submarine, an Australian political source with decades of experience in the global arms industry told Reuters.

The Indian defence ministry said in a statement it was investigating the impact of the leak on the submarine programme which it said had occurred from abroad. 

India has a fleet of 13 ageing submarines, only half of which are operational at any time, opening up a major gap with China which is expanding its maritime presence in the Indian Ocean.


Leak comes against difficult commerical backdrop: DCNS backdrop 

DCNS, which is 35 per cent owned by Thales, said it was working to determine if any harm had been caused to clients with a view to drawing up an action plan.

Asked if the leak could affect other contracts, a company spokeswoman said it had come against a difficult commercial backdrop and that corporate espionage could be to blame.

 

Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context," a spokesman said and added, "There is India, Australia and other prospects, and other countries could raise legitimate questions over DCNS."


"Competition is getting tougher and tougher, and all means can be used in this context," she said. "There is India, Australia and other prospects, and other countries could raise legitimate questions over DCNS. It's part of the tools in economic warfare."

DCNS, which is also vying for submarine contracts in Norway and Poland, beat Germany's ThyssenKrupp AG and a Japanese-government backed bid by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Australia.

That was a major blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to develop defence export capabilities as part of a more muscular security agenda.

Thales, whose shares fell 3 per cent before paring back some of the losses, declined to comment.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who finalised the Australian deal, also declined to comment.

(WION with inputs from Reuters) 

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

The $3.5 submarine data leak has pushed India to launch an investigation. Indian defence ministry claims that the leak occurred from abroad

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