New Delhi: Defence Minister AK Antony Friday said a Navy inquiry has established a senior officer`s connections with a Russian woman, but it was yet to be probed whether the link had influenced the price hike of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier.
The officer, Commodore Sukhjinder Singh, was in charge of the Gorshkov refit project in Russia between 2005 and 2007, and was part of the cost negotiation committee that firmed up a revised price of USD 2.33 billion for the Kiev class aircraft carrier`s refit at a Russian shipyard.
"Navy has completed one part of its investigations and they have just started the second part of the investigations.
The particular man (Com Singh) had some relations with the other side...a lady. That part has been established. Nothing beyond that is proved so far. Let the Navy complete the
investigation," Antony told reporters.
"The Navy is taking special care to speed up the investigation (into Com Singh`s liaison) As soon as the investigation is complete, we will take a decision. I do not want to jump to conclusions (before the probe is over)," he said after addressing the inaugural session of the two-day armed forces` Unified Commanders Conference here.
Antony said he had asked the Navy to speed up the investigation "as quickly as possible".
"They (Navy) are at it. Prematurely I do not want to jump to conclusions. Let them complete it (the probe)," he said.
The Navy had yesterday submitted its Board of Inquiry report into the episode that began with it receiving a set of "objectionable" photographs of the officer along with the
Russian woman a week ago.
Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma is now scrutinising the report to recommend a suitable punishment to be awarded to the officer to the Defence Ministry.
After his Russian tenure, Singh was posted back to India as the Principal Director of Aircraft Carrier Project before he was transferred to the Directorate General of Quality
Assurance in the capital late last year.
Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Security gave its nod to sign a deal with the Sevmash Shipyard for the Gorshkov`s refit at USD 2.33 billion (about Rs 11,000 crore).
India had in 2004 bought the 45,000-tonne warship at a cost of USD 974 million, but the shipyard twice hiked its price for the refit and repair programme since 2007.
Though originally scheduled for delivery in August 2008, the protracted cost negotiation led to a delay in the repair work on the aircraft carrier and now it has been rescheduled
Asked about the use of armed forces in the country`s fight against the Maoist in the wake of the Dantewada massacre, Antony said the government would take a decision
after considering all aspects.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has taken a decision that the Home Ministry would be the nodal point on the Naxal problem. "I am not here to have a public debate on this (Naxal menace)," he said.
Asked about his message to the armed forces commanders, Antony said the South Asian region was emerging as "the focal point" for all terrorist organisations and the situation was "very critical and sensitive".
"They have to be ever ready to meet the eventuality. This is what I told them," he said.
Antony, a senior Congress leader, parried a question on his party`s thinking on the controversy involving Union Minister Shashi Tharoor on the Kochi IPL issue, saying he does not discuss politics at defence events.