Germany and India are closing in on a deal to build diesel submarines in the South Asian nation as Russia’s protracted war in Ukraine pressures New Delhi to expand sources of military hardware beyond its top supplier Moscow.
Thyssenkrupp AG’s maritime arm and India’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited will jointly bid for an estimated $5.2 billion project to build six submarines for the Indian Navy, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The initial agreement or memorandum of understanding will be signed in the presence of Defense Minister Boris Pistorius who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday on a two-day visit, German and Indian officials said.
Pistorius told public broadcaster ARD that the submarine deal would be on the agenda when he visits Mumbai on Wednesday.
In the televised interview, he said his role was to “support and facilitate” discussions between German officials traveling with him and their Indian counterparts. “This will be a big and important deal not only for German industry, but also for India and the Indo-German strategic partnership,” Pistorius said.
India’s defense ministry and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry and a representative for Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems declined to comment.
The Kiel-based defense manufacturing giant showed no interest in jointly building submarines with India when the tender was announced two years ago. With the Ukraine war now in its second year and China locked in war with Russia, the West, and Germany in particular, is placing its bets on India’s deterrence against Beijing’s growing diplomatic and military assertiveness.
For submarines, India has identified Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders and Larsen & Toubro to contract with foreign defense majors to build diesel attack submarines. A key target for a partnership was ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, which is one of only two submarine makers worldwide with air independent propulsion – a technology that allows conventional submarines to stay underwater for long periods of time.
ThyssenKrupp-built submarines have also been used by the Indian Navy in the past, making them a much more compelling choice than South Korea’s Daewoo and Spain’s Navantia group.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants German and European defense firms to step up their efforts to supply modern military gear to New Delhi as a way to help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wean itself off dependence on Russia in the defense sector.
India has emerged as one of the swing states to buy heavily discounted crude from Moscow while engaging with the US and its allies. New Delhi has used a long-standing border dispute with China to buy weapons from Moscow – its biggest supplier of military hardware, although supplies have stalled as Russia and India fight to find a payment arrangement that does not violate US sanctions.
Submarines are a critical requirement due to New Delhi’s aging fleet. To effectively patrol the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy needs a minimum of 24 conventional submarines but currently has only 16. Of this fleet, apart from six recently built vessels, the rest are more than 30 years old and are likely to be decommissioned within a few years. to come
India, which is part of the so-called Quad grouping that includes Japan, the US and Australia, has been pushing these countries and European allies to share submarine-building technology. But there is a general reluctance to the technology because of India’s proximity to Russia and Modi’s “Make in India” policy to encourage local manufacturing and create jobs.