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South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean, once a frontrunner in India’s Project 75I submarine acquisition program, opted to silently withdraw its bid last year. While the takeover of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and its rebranding played a role, a deeper analysis by reveals additional factors behind this decision.

Hanwha Ocean, inheriting DSME’s legacy, offered the KSS-III submarine, a 3,000-ton class that seemingly met all the Indian Navy’s technical requirements. This initially positioned them for pole position.

However, the scenario changed with the Indian MoD’s intervention. The deadline was extended, allowing previously withdrawn contenders like TKMS of Germany to return and maintain a competitive bidding process. This was followed by the entry of the Spanish shipyard Navantia, a significant development.

Sources revealed that past compliance issues with Korean defence manufacturers, specifically during the now-cancelled 12 Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMV) deal, raised red flags for the Indian Navy. Additionally, allegations of using defence agents, a violation of Indian procurement rules, further tarnished the image of Korean participation.

With TKMS re-entering and securing a partnership with Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL), a crucial aspect of the Project 75I requirements, Hanwha Ocean was left without a suitable Indian partner. Navantia, on the other hand, successfully tied up with Larsen & Toubro (L&T), a private Indian shipyard with experience in submarine construction.

Faced with an increasingly unfavourable situation – compliance concerns, lack of a domestic partner, and a reshaped competition – Hanwha Ocean chose to withdraw from the bidding process discreetly.

The withdrawal of Hanwha Ocean leaves the competition between TKMS and Navantia wide open. This turn of events highlights the importance of not only offering a technically sound product but also adhering to strict compliance standards and fostering strong partnerships for success in India’s defence procurement landscape.

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