Gorshkov talks in final stages but no deadline: Navy chief

December 2nd, 2009 - 6:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) Indian Navy chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, Wednesday said negotiations on the price of Russian-built aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov are in the “final stages”. He refused to fix a deadline for the deal.
“We are on the final stages of negotiations. Fourth round of negotiations have completed,” Verma told reporters.

But on the question whether the deal will be clinched during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Russia visit starting Sunday, Verma said he would not like to put a “time frame” to it.

“It is true that the project is behind schedule. But we are working on our programme to seize the delivery of the platform by 2012. It continues to be addressed at every bilateral level.

“The work has not come to a stop. It is going on briskly. Adequate resources have put in by the Russians,” Verma told reporters here ahead of the Navy Day Dec 4.

According to the initial agreement, the the aircraft carrier was gifted free but India was to pay $974 million to modify and upgrade it to the Indian Navy’s specifications.

The balance of the $1.5 billion deal was for the 16 MiG-29 jets and Kamov anti-submarine warfare helicopters that will be deployed on the ship.

In 2007, however, the Russians said they had made a mistake in their calculations and demanded another $1.2 billion.

Recently, they added another $700 million to the bill, saying the modifications and the subsequent sea trials would be more expensive than estimated earlier.

Senior naval officials say that there have been “positive developments” in the negotiations of the aircraft carrier, which will be inducted in the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya.

“There have been positive developments in the sense that the Russians have agreed to not to escalate the cost further and to justify the price quoted so far,” said a naval officer, requesting anonymity.

A 40-member Russian delegation was here in November to discuss the price hike issue.

The price negotiations failed to make any headway even during Antony’s visit to Russia in October.

The delivery of the aircraft carrier has also been pushed from 2008 to 2012. The ship is being re-fitted at the Sevmash shipyard in north Russia’s Arctic coast.

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