Indian Navy awaits defence ministry order to sack senior officer

February 8th, 2011 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Even three days after Defence Minister A.K. Antony said it had been decided to sack Commodore Sukhjinder Singh over his involvement with a Russian woman while posted in Moscow to supervise the refit of an aircraft carrier India has bought, the navy is still awaiting the file to issue the necessary orders. A senior navy officer told IANS here Tuesday that after Antony made the announcement on Singh’s sacking on Saturday, the file was yet to reach the naval headquarters.

“The file has not yet reached the naval headquarters. We are awaiting it. It could come in a day or two and after that we will initiate the process for discharging him from the service,” the officer said, on condition of anonymity.

Singh’s fate was sealed after his conduct during his three-year posting in Russia 2005-07 was found to be unbecoming of a navy officer for being intimately involved with a local woman.

Singh was India’s pointsman in Russia to ensure the smooth and on-time refit and repair of the Admiral Gorshkov that the navy will induct as the INS Vikramaditya.

The controversy over his relations with the Russian woman erupted in early 2010 following the leaking of explicit photographs of the duo.

The photographs formed a major part of the evidence to indict him at the navy’s court of inquiry against him.

The row came at a time when India and Russia were finalising the increase in the cost of the aircraft carrier’s repair from the $1.5 billion contracted in 2004. After protracted negotiations, India in February 2010 agreed to pay $2.34-billion for the second-hand aircraft carrier.

Of the original cost, $974 million was meant for the carrier’s refit and $526 million for 16 MiG-29K fighter jets that will be deployed on the vessel.

While Russia has delivered the fighter jets to India, the warship itself is expected to be inducted only by late 2012 or early 2013 against the originally scheduled 2007-08. The navy is expected to place an order for 29 more MiG-29Ks to shore up its air arm.

The contract involved the repair and refit of the ship at Russia’s Sevmash shipyard, which is currently in progress.

Singh, on his return to India in 2007, continued to be linked to the warship’s refit programme as the Principal Director (Aircraft Carrier Project) based in New Delhi, where he served till mid-2009.

He was later posted to the defence ministry’s directorate general of quality assurance but was relieved of his responsibilities in April last year after the navy ordered the probe against him on his liaison with the Russian woman.

The Gorshkov deal itself was slammed by the Comptroller and Auditor General a year ago for buying a used warship at a huge cost while a swanky new one could be purchased for a price slightly over what India is now paying.

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