(AFP) – Feb 27, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India and Russia have ended a protracted dispute over the cost of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier which will be now sold at a higher price to the Indian navy in 2011, officials said Thursday.
Indian Defence Secretary V. K. Singh, returning from Moscow, said a new undisclosed price had been agreed for the 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov.
Russian export firm Rosoboronexport in 2004 signed a deal to refurbish the carrier for 970 million dollars but last year demanded India pay an additional 1.2 billion dollars.
Singh declined to give details of the negotiations but conceded "there will be a substantial increase in the "reworked estimate" for the modernisation of the 30-year-old ship.
"The figure cannot be disclosed as the modified contract has to be put up to the union Cabinet and the cabinet committee on security for clearance," he told reporters in New Delhi.
"The modified contract would be signed by March end after teams from Russia visit here to finalise it," he added.
"There is no question of giving up the carrier and at no time had the Russians said that they wanted to reclaim the carrier."
Defence sources said India has agreed to pay up to 900 million dollars more for the carrier and added that a domestic shipbuilding yard was rushing experts to speed up the project.
"India is sending more than 100 trained personnel from its shipyard to the Sevmash shipyard to join 1,200 Russian personnel who are working on that ship," a ministry official said.
Secretary Singh said the Gorshkov will be rechristened INS Vikramaditya and join the Indian navy as early as 2011.
"The warship requires installation of new turbines, boilers, 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) of cabling and strengthening of its flight deck as part of the new retro-fitting to be undertaken on the carrier," he said.
"The carrier will be ready by 2010 after which it would undergo 18 months of sea trials."
Under the contract Russian shipyard Sevmash will equip the vessel with modern weapons, 16 MiG-29 fighter jets and a fleet of anti-submarine helicopters.
Admiral Gorshkov is to fill a vacuum left by the scrapping in 1997 of India's first aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which had been in service since 1961.
The Indian navy has only one operational aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, which is to be phased out in coming years.
The breakthrough on the deal came three months after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew to Moscow on November 12 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on defence and political ties.
Russia accounts for 70 percent of Indian arms supplies but late deliveries, and commercial disagreements, have led New Delhi to use other suppliers such as Israel, Britain, France and the United States.
Russia is in a race with Western rivals for a 10-billion-dollar deal to sell 126 fighter jets, artillery worth two billion dollars and 317 helicopters worth a billion dollars to India.
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