NEW DELHI: A $2.3-billion deal to build fleet support vessels in collaboration with a Turkish shipyard has come into question after security concerns were raised over the firm, including links with Pakistan.
Turkey’s TAIS had emerged as the lowest bidder in June this year, following a global competition, for a contract to manufacture five of the 45,000-tonne fleet support vessels (FSV) at the Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL).
Turkish shipyards are a major supplier of warships to the Pakistani Navy and concerns have been raised in India on how access to the strategic HSL by its engineers and workers can result in serious security issues.
HSL is located close to the Ship Building Centre, where India’s nuclear armed submarines are built and the Eastern Naval Command has its headquarters.
Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had used the ceremony to launch new corvettes for the Pakistani Navy last month to once again talk about the Kashmir issue.
He said that he would continue to raise the issue at global platforms and attempted to draw parallels between the Kashmir issue and the Palestine conflict. The platform was also used by the Pakistan Navy chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi for anti-India propaganda.
Besides four new corvettes, Turkey has designed a fleet support vessel for Pakistan and has signed a deal to sell 30 T129 attack helicopters that have been developed in collaboration with Italian company Finmeccanica (since renamed Leonardo).
The Indian FSV project has been running behind schedule since it was given a go-ahead in 2016 after the navy projected a requirement for ships that can carry fuel and other supplies for warships at sea. In a decision that triggered protests by private shipyards, the defence ministry decided to nominate HSL for the project without opting for competitive bidding.
The state-owned shipyard commenced its own selection process to identify a foreign technology partner after its initial talks with South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries fell through. The competitive tender closed in on three possibilities — the Turkish yard, Russia’s Shipbuilding Corporation and Germany’s TKMS.
While the Turkish yard’s “win” was announced in June, no formal contract has been signed with the company so far. The matter is being discussed at the top level in the ministry, after which formal action will be initiated for the way forward, according to people aware of the matter.