India launches first nuclear-powered submarine
India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine on Sunday, officials said, underlining the military advances made by the rapidly developing nation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a “historic milestone in the country’s defence preparedness” as the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant (Destroyer of Enemies) was named in the southern city of Visakhapatnam.
The submarine, the first of five planned, is powered by an 85-megawatt nuclear reactor and can reach 44 kilometres an hour (24 knots) underwater, according to defence officials. It will be armed with torpedoes and ballistic missiles, and carry a crew of 95 men.
“We don’t have any aggressive designs nor do we seek to threaten anyone,” the Press Trust of India quoted Singh as saying at the launch.
“We seek an external environment in our region and beyond that is conducive to our peaceful development and protection of our value systems.”
India is now part of an exclusive group of nations — including China, France, the United States, Britain and Russia — which own nuclear-powered submarines. The vessel will undergo two years of sea trials in the Bay of Bengal before being commissioned for full service, according to PTI.
India previously leased a Russian-built nuclear submarine, and in 2005 signed contracts worth 2.4 billion euros (three billion dollars) to receive six diesel-electric Franco-Spanish Scorpene submarines. The launch came as India marked the tenth anniversary of the brief but bloody Kargil conflict with arch-rival Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region.
More than 1,100 people, mostly Indian and Pakistani soldiers, died in the high-altitude offensive in the spring and summer of 1999 when Pakistan-based infiltrators crossed the icy frontier that separates the two countries. At a service earlier in New Delhi, Singh paid tribute to the Indian troops who died during the conflict.
“They sacrificed their lives in defence of Indian unity and integrity,” he said.
A year before Kargil, India conducted nuclear weapons tests and Pakistan responded with its own tests a few days later.
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