Scorpene leak: Parrikar shoots down concerns, journalist claims India downplaying (Roundup)

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) India on Friday reiterated the leaked Scorpene documents will not hurt the country’s strategic interests with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stressing that it was not a “big concern” while the Australian journalist who broke the story claimed the Indian government was downplaying the incident.

Sources from the Indian Navy, meanwhile, said the documents that newspaper The Australian has put out on its website are old.

Parrikar, talking to journalists on the sidelines of an event here, said: “We are waiting for the report. Basically what is on the website (of The Australian) is not of concern to us but we are assuming on our own that this has been leaked and we are taking all precautions.”

He stressed the documents do not contain information on the weapons.

He added that as the trials of the first submarine Kalvari are on, signatures are yet to be established.

“The most important signature does not form part of the documents.”

“What I am given to understand is that there are a few pockets of concern assuming that what is claimed to have been leaked has leaked actually.”

“We are going by assumption of the worst case scenario. I think there is not big worry because we will be able to put things in right perspective,” he said.

Asked whether it may affect the Rafale fighter jet deal, the minister shot back saying: “You stop using all products from France? Obviously, the companies are different, the type of equipment is different, and an incident should be punished with whatever the contractual punishment is there. It is not intentionally leaked.”

Australian investigative journalist Cameron Stewart, who broke the story, meanwhile, alleged that the Indian Navy is trying to downplay the leak, and said his newspaper can post all the leaked documents online if India feels they pose no threat.

In an email response to questions from IANS, Stewart, an Associate Editor with The Australian, said the navy was just trying to do “damage control”.

“The Navy is just trying to control the public relations damage of the leak, so they are trying to play it down. If they claim there is no damage, then maybe we should now put all 22,400 confidential documents on the net,” Stewart told IANS.

Sources from the Defence Ministry, who are aware of the details of the analysis of leaked information that is going on, said that the documents were part of specifications given to India.

The source ruled out any damaging impact of the published documents, but added that in worst case, India is capable of handling the damage.

Asked about the Indian Navy insignia on some of the documents uploaded by the Australian, the source said it was put in place by DCNS, which prepared the document and it was a “usual practice”.

The official also said that they are using all means to assess if there is any damage, and are in touch with the French as well as Australian sides.

Sensitive data related to India’s Scorpene submarines has been leaked from French shipbuilder DCNS, which designed the submarine, comprising documents running over 22,400 pages, according to The Australian.

Navy officials had on Wednesday too downplayed the leak, stating that there was “nothing to get alarmed” about, as the specifications in the documents will not be same as in the submarine to be finally manufactured.

The Defence Minister has sought a report on the extent of damage following the leak, which, he said, appeared to be an incident of “hacking”.

–IANS

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