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Navy keen to clinch deal on Gorshkov

New Delhi, Dec 3: Frantic efforts have been mounted to clinch a deal on the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov, which the Indian Navy wants desperately, but talks between Union defence minister George Fernandes and Russian industry minister Ilya Klebanov today have not yet resulted in the two sides agreeing on the price.

Defence ministry sources described the negotiations “as near but not total” after the Russians quoted a price for the retrofitting of the aircraft carrier and additional equipment to be supplied as part of the package. The Indian side is trying to beat down the price. “We have identified our requirements. We are convinced the Gorshkov is what we need. We now have to fix a price. This is normal procedure,” sources said.

The Klebanov-Fernandes meeting — the second in a fortnight and held hours before Russian President Putin arrived in Delhi — was part of an effort to make an announcement tomorrow. This morning’s meeting was held on a request from the Russians. Sources said a joint statement was likely tomorrow on military supplies and co-production but the Gorshkov is unlikely to figure in it. There was no official confirmation on the price being quoted.

Sources said the price quoted by the Russians covered the cost of retrofitting the carrier plus other equipment but not the aircraft to be based on the ship. They said the Russian side was also offering to sell interceptor missiles reported to be comparable with the Israeli Patriot missiles.

Klebanov, who is also the Russian science and technology minister, was accompanied by two officials. From the Indian side, George Fernandes and two joint secretaries talked to the Russian delegation.

Officials indicated that an agreement for co-production of the fighters and a transport aircraft was likely. Earlier this year, the Indian and Russian governments had agreed in principle to the arrangement.

Sources said it is possible that a statement tomorrow will mention Russian commitment on supplies of spares for the Indian Air Force.

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