M A I N   N E W S

Gorshkov deal clinched
Rs 7,000-crore pact includes 28 MiG-29K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
After years of protracted negotiations, India and Russia today signed the "historic" and their biggest-ever defence deal for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, which would be acquired by New Delhi along with a complement of 28 MiG-29K fighter aircraft for almost Rs 7,000 crore ($1.5 b).

Making the announcement, Defence Minister George Fernandes and visiting Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said the military and technical cooperation between India and Russia had reached a ‘higher level’.

The deal for the acquisition of Admiral Gorshkov was signed earlier in the day during the delegation-level talks, which were headed by the respective defence ministers. However, there was apparently no agreement over the Kamov 31 helicopters and as such the cost for them was not included in the present deal.

Russia and India also denied that there were any negotiations over the leasing of the two Russian Akula-class nuclear submarines and the negotiations over the crucial leasing of the four TU-22 bombers also remained inconclusive.

Mr Ivanov said the Gorshkov deal incorporated life-time upgrades, technical assistance as well as setting up of infrastructure for the aircraft carrier in India. The Russian minister also offered New Delhi more T-90 tanks in case India was interested. He also gave indications of possible licence production of SU-30 MKI aircraft in India.

This is the second biggest defence deal India has signed with a foreign country after the recent Rs 8000-crore contract to acquire 66 British Aerospace Hawk 115-Y advance jet trainers.

“The signing of the contract constitutes a landmark in our military-technical cooperation and will constitute the furthering of our defence, technological and bilateral relations as a whole,” the defence ministers said. The refurbishment of the aircraft carrier is expected to cost over Rs 3,000 crore while the rest of the cost would be for the MiG-29K fighter aircraft which would be stationed on the aircraft carrier’s deck.

Mr Ivanov said the signing of the two contracts—one for the aircraft carrier and the other for related package of equipment and systems—would bring about a qualitative change in Russia’s defence relationship with India. “Our relationship is now progressing from that of buyer-seller to research and development,” he added.

A press note issued by the Defence Ministry said the two defence ministers, who held extensive talks along with their respective delegations, covered bilateral relations as well as the international security situation, including the developments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Ivanov also called on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, besides meeting National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra. The three service chiefs and Defence Secretary Ajay Prasad also called on the visiting dignitary.

The purchase of the 44,500-tonne aircraft carrier, now decommissioned and berthed in a Black Sea port, has been hanging fire since 1994 because the two countries had not been able to agree on the price for refitting the ship according to the Indian Navy’s requirements.

As part of the deal, the Russians were also wanting to sell the Kashtan air defence system, but India as of now has not agreed as it is wanting to check the French and Israeli air defence systems also before taking a final decision. 

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