| Bald claim: Madhvendra Singh
New Delhi, Dec. 3: The voyage of the Gorshkov to Indian shores is in jeopardy even before it could be made seaworthy.
Top echelons of the defence ministry were red-faced after Russia last night issued a denial to the claim made by the chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Madhvendra Singh, that the deal to buy the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov had been clinched. But Delhi still claims the differences are minor and were being ironed out.
Within hours of the navy chief announcing that India had negotiated the price of the Gorshkov for less than Rs 3,000 crore — which he described as a “very good price” — the Russian defence ministry said in a late night statement that “the final amount of the contract, as well as issues pertaining to the supply of foreign origin weapon systems and changes required in the ship’s systems for their integration, are yet to be resolved”.
In a report from Moscow late on Tuesday night, PTI quoted a Russian defence ministry source as saying: “The proposal of the Indian partners for fitting a third-party air defence system on the ship was to an extent a surprise for the Russian side, as it would inevitably create the problem of its operational compatibility with the battleship’s combat systems.”
Delhi, however, still believes that the negotiation of the price has been completed. A spokesman for the ministry of defence said “price negotiations have been completed in a comprehensive manner” to buy the 44,500-tonne carrier.
The spokesman said the differences that remained were “minor” and could be resolved before the signing of the contract. Moreover, it would take an estimated 52 weeks for the ship to be refitted to Indian demands and changes could be carried out even then.
Navy sources said India and Russia were yet to resolve the purchase of MiG series aircraft along with the carrier and also negotiate the air defence system for the vessel. For a strategic purchase like the Gorshkov, these cannot be reasonably called “minor” differences because they are indispensable hardware.
The sources said three issues were still outstanding:
• The final contract price contention
• Supply of weapon systems that were not of Russian make
• Fitment and integration of the systems with the carrier’s equipment.