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Naval chief on frigate mission

New Delhi, June 16: The chief of naval staff, Admiral Madhvendhra Singh, left for Russia this morning to commission a frigate contracted by India after the vessel was twice rejected for failing tests.

Defence sources said the admiral left after a navy crew stationed in St Petersburg, awaiting delivery of the INS Talwar, a Krivack class frigate, informed headquarters that the vessel was now ready for commissioning.

The admiral left for Russia even as Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov met defence minister George Fernandes this morning and held, what official sources said were “wideranging talks”. The talks covered the possible acquisition of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and other military equipment, India-Pakistan relations and the situation in Iraq and West Asia.

Ivanov flew in to Delhi last night after a stopover and talks in Islamabad.

Russia is India’s chief supplier of military hardware and has now been revving up military-to-military ties following a major naval exercise off the eastern and western coasts of India last month.

Army chief General N.C. Vij is also in Russia on a scheduled visit.

The navy chief is expected to commission the INS Talwar on Wednesday. A naval crew comprising 288 sailors and 28 officers have been stationed in St Petersburg to take delivery of the ship.

The INS Talwar is the first of three stealth frigates — the other two being the INS Trishul and the INS Tabar — contracted by India in 1997.

The production and delivery is behind schedule by more than a year. Defence minister George Fernandes is expected to take delivery of the second frigate later this month.

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