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India, Russia to renegotiate on Admiral Gorshkov

New Delhi, Thu, 04 Dec 2008 NI Wire

Prior to the visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s to India, beginning from Thursday, both countries have finally decided to renegotiate the almost broken deal for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov within three months. A high level committee on Wednesday decided to pave the way for a renegotiation process.

First, a joint High Level Monitoring Committee (HLMC) of India and Russia co-chaired by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh and Russian Federal Service of Military Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) Director Mikhail Dmitriev on Tuesday (Dec 02) organised a meeting and decided to prepare a ground for negotiating the defence deal, which was later approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on the same day.

Besides, the CCS has also cleared the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s demand to buy 80 Russian ‘Mi-17’ medium-lift choppers, which will be equipped with weapons for war as well as these choppers will also be used for rescue operations.

The latest version of the Mi-17 choppers deal is expected to be finalised nearby USD 1-billion to join the existing fleet of 200 Mi-17s.

The decision of fresh negotiation of Gorshkov may prove ‘vital’ for Indian Naval Academy (INA) that is facing aircraft carrier crunch for its three-sided far and wide costal area. At present, INA has only one aircraft carrier INS Viraat (28,000 tonne) that is ageing and has been floating in the Indian Ocean after getting another life-extension.

The INA on the other hand is asking at least two more aircraft carriers to vigil operations viewing the rising threat to coastal security.

Thus, India had decided to purchase decommissioned Russian aircraft carrier in January 2004 and signed a deal of worth USD 1.5-billion to get the 44,570-tonne fully-refurbished Gorshkov, equipped with 16 MiG-29K fighters, to join the Indian Navy fleet by August 2008.

However, the deal was not materialised for the reason that Russia demanded an additional USD1.2-billion for refitting Gorshkov and also pushed the delivery date from August 2008 to the end of 2012. India was very much keen to finish this deal and had already paid USD1.5-billion to bank on this deal.

Later, high-level delegations of both the nations convened several meetings earlier this year over the ongoing expenses and latest inbuilt technologies, the demand of Russia rose to USD2-billion and the deal reached towards doom.

In September 2008 Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov had visited India and in an Inter-Governmental Commission meet between him and his Indian counterpart A K Antony agreed to begin renegotiation process prior to Medvedev's visit.

According to sources, Indian top official has considered that India had underestimated the refurbishing cost of Gorshkov and India may have to give ‘more’ for getting repair Russian aircraft carrier ship that is refurbishing at Sevmash shipyard in north Russia. Medvedev, who is coming to India for preparing framework for supplying nuclear reactors and fuel to India, may also approve the CCS proposals of defence deals.

It is known that in September 2008, Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) had lifted the ban on its 45 members for supplying the nuclear fuels to India because India has assured to use these fuels for only civil purpose.

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