India flawlessly manifests the incompetence of its navy, besides other military services, as it seeks to stir the stable and peaceful Arabian Sea by introducing underwater and surface combatants against maritime interests of Pakistan. India has done it, in the past, neither clearly establishing the objectives nor the success markers of its naval strategy in the Indian Ocean. This article aims to reflect an approach of ‘self-deception’ that the Indian navy has been pursuing against Pakistan, consistently resulting into unwelcome consequences. Though numerically superior and thriving on a grandiose set of operational concepts, the Indian navy, in the words of Stephen P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta, has been “arming without aiming”. Indian navy conspicuously relegates the reality that while it attempts to test Pakistan navy, it actually embraces self-deception exposing the operational-cum-technical failures of its naval vessels.

Detection of the Indian navy’s most advanced Scorpene Class submarine, and later forcing her to clear the area, on 4 March 2019, by the Pakistan Navy was one of the significant events of recent politico-military strain between India and Pakistan. Three years ago, in the aftermath of Uri incident, Indian navy’s submarines infested the North Arabian Sea in an attempt to create undersea hostility against Pakistan, sans success. On 14 November 2016, Indian navy’s 209 Class submarine was detected, in waters close to Pakistan’s coast, by the Pakistan Naval Air Arm’s P3C Orion aircraft while on a routine patrol. The submarine was forced to surface and reveal her identity. Such a deceitful deployment of Indian submarines, in Pakistan waters, could not have been without a sinister motive; which might range from intelligence gathering to launching of saboteurs to disrupt the CPEC and Gwadar port projects. Recent detection of the Indian submarine could suggest a similar construct of deployment, i.e., intelligence gathering to attacking a Pakistani ship traversing the waters off Pakistan’s coast. Given the highly charged environment that echoed the probability of escalation, the presence of Indian submarine near Pakistani coast could have helped enhance the level of crisis instability, had it not been detected by the valiant Pakistani naval aviators.

Indian naval vessel, entered Muscat, during the post-Pulwama crisis and did not leave the port for around 02 weeks owing to the risk that they would face from Pakistan naval platforms patrolling the area, as per the response mechanics of Pakistan Navy. A small trapped vessel was finally rescued by their large aircraft carrier group compromising advanced ships. These events contradict the Indian Naval Chief’s claims that he had made during March 2018 interview with the Republic TV and subsequent Navy Day address. During the interview and address, Admiral Sunil Lanba the Indian CNS, asserted that Pakistan Navy did not figure as a ‘threat’ that could worry him as a naval chief; he went on to posit that his force is overwhelmingly ahead of Pakistan Navy. Frustrated by the successive operational and technical failures of the Indian navy, Lanba, did not appear as reasonable as one would have thought of a senior ranking officer, who resorted to the popular narrative of “Pulwama attack perpetrated by extremists and aided by a State that seeks to destabilise India”, while speaking at the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue on 4 March 2019. As India fails to substantiate its version of Pulwama attack, the narratological strength of its senior military officers fade for projecting Pakistan behind the attack. Adopting the reductionist disposition, which the majority of Indian officials are known for, Lanba observed that there were “reports of terrorists being trained to attack via sea”, without clearly mentioning the nature and spatiotemporal significance of his unsubstantiated claims.

After years of failures to complete the ATV project, launched in 1990s, marred by corruption and planning poverty, Submarine Arihant, the Indian navy’s ballistic missiles carrying nuclear powered submarine, was commissioned in 2016. Arihant suffered a serious problem in 2017 that put the submarine ‘out of action’ for almost a year. Earlier in 2013, Kilo Class Sindhurakshak submarine sank in Mumbai’s naval dockyard after a fire accident. In 2014, Sindhuratna, another Kilo Class submarine, saw a fire break out on board killing two sailors by suffocation. Such a poor operational and safety culture prevalent in the Indian navy solidifies the notion that the Indian navy, for most of its part, has been blinded by the strategy of ‘self-deception’ that conveniently avoids introspection and fancily encourages it to focus on defeating Pakistan Navy thinking it’s a ‘weak force’. Once Arihant completed, as claimed by the Indian navy, a month-long “deterrent patrol” in the Indian Ocean, this was celebrated by the Indian strategic community as one of its kind. Modi called on the ‘enemies of India’ to avoid any “misadventure against India”. In his op-ed, Ankit Srivastava, the editor-in-chief of New Daily Times went on to note that Arihant created a “flutter” in Pakistan. In reality, Arihant is a mere technology demonstrator rather than a credible platform for a sea-based nuclear deterrence. Srivastava’s use of jingoistic expression shows the depth of Pakistan-obsession among the Indian writers and analysts, who find it hard to unshackle themselves from the traditional anti-Pakistan diatribe.

Indian navy’s impeccable failures to live up to its size and prowess generate incalculable frustration among naval leadership and maritime thinkers, who cannot reconcile with the reality that such a navy could not observe the fundamentals of naval warfare. Repeated detections of submarines at the hands of Pakistan Navy is a case that entitles the critics to ask legitimate questions about the competence, consistency and operational standards of the Indian navy. It’s been long since the Indian navy embraced ‘self-deception’ dwelling in a contrived operational environment giving itself an imaginative advantage over Pakistan Navy, while ignoring the deep rooted doctrinal and strategic issues engulfing it. As the Indian navy ship felt uncomfortable leaving Muscat because Pakistan Navy waits outside the gates with its patrolling the expanse of Gulf of Oman, it’s time Indian navy steered a course distancing itself from Pakistan-obsession and jettisoning the burden of ‘self-deception’!