Gorshkov, the "festering sore" in Indo-Russian relations



New Delhi: Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov had always been a major irritant in Indo- Russian relations after it was marred by a series of price disputes and delayed deliveries.

The legendary Soviet Navy Commander-in-Chief of the Cold War era and a friend of India after whom the carrier has been named would not have thought that the eponymously named aircraft carrier would become a "festering sore" in otherwise warm bilateral relations.

As the two sides haggled for almost three years over the Russian demand for a price over three times higher than what it was bought for by India, the former National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, while accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Moscow last December, admitted that the Admiral Gorshkov was becoming a "festering sore.

Finally, the two nations have now decided to finalise the fresh price for the carrier at USD 2.35 billion, with the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) giving its approval to the renegotiated cost on Wednesday.

The Kiev class aircraft carrier is now scheduled for delivery to India by 2013 to add teeth to its Navy.

The Indian Navy had grown into a blue water force coinciding with the years the Admiral, who had sent his submarines during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War to the Indian waters to keep a watch over US warships that came into assist Pakistan, was at the helm of the Soviet Navy.

The deal for the 45,000-tonne warship had been signed in January 2004 at USD 974 million along with 16 MiG-29K naval fighters for USD 526 million and the warship was sent to the Russian Sevmash shipyard for its repair and refit.

However, the original delivery schedule of December 2008 went for a toss after the shipyard made a startling claim of an additional USD 1.5 billion for the refit project and went slow on the work in 2007 and hiked it again to USD 2.2 billion in 2009.

PTI