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`Gorshkov deal unlikely during PM`s Russia visit`

Last Updated: Friday, November 27, 2009 - 17:50

New Delhi: The revised deal for the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov that the Indian Navy has purchased is unlikely to be clinched during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s Moscow visit next month, Defence Minister AK Antony said Friday.

"No, it is not," Antony said when asked if the revised deal for the ship could be signed during the visit.

Antony was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar organised by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses here Friday.

However, senior naval officials say that there have been "positive developments" in the negotiations on the final price for the refurbishment 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 earlier this to discuss the price hike issue.

The price negotiations for Gorshkov have dragged on for long with both sides refusing to budge from their stands. The Russians are now demanding $2.9 billion for the carrier, whereas the Indians are asking them to climb down to $2.1 billion. This is against the original price of $1.5 billion that had been agreed to.

However, the officer said that till such time a final price tag is fixed for the 45,000 tonne Kiev class carrier, work on the vessel will progress at the usual pace.

"That is the agreement between the two sides that the work on the aircraft carrier would not be stalled. The delivery schedule of 2012 will be honoured. India has released about $650 million so far for the re-fitting work," the officer added.

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

India had paid around $650 million initially after an agreement between the two countries in 2004, according to which 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 was for the 16 MiG-29 jets, as also 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 to repair and modify the vessel, 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.

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

Agni-II glitches to be removed

Antony also downplayed the recent failure of the nuclear-capable intermediate range Agni-II missile`s test firing, saying scientists would soon rectify the glitches.

"It is not absolutely correct. Sometimes tests do fail," Antony said in reply to a query if the test was a setback for India`s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

"I am absolutely confident that DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) scientists will look into the problem and do away with it," Antony added.

The first night test of the Agni-II missile Nov 23 turned out to be a failure. The surface-to-surface missile with a range of 2,000-plus km was tested from Wheeler`s Island - a launch site in Orissa`s Bhadrak district, about 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, at about 7.50 pm.

The take-off and first phase separation went off smoothly. However, the second stage booster failed to function as expected. The test was a user trial to give the Indian Army the confidence to fire the missile whenever required.

Earlier this year, a daytime trial of the Agni-II was also a failure.

The Agni-II missile is 20 metres long and can carry a 1,000 kg payload. It weighs 17 tonnes and its range can be increased to 3,000 km by reducing the payload.

The Agni-II version of the Agni-series of missiles was first test fired in 1999.

IANS

First Published: Friday, November 27, 2009 - 17:50
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