Indian and Russian negotiators are racing to wrap up talks on a revised deal on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov in time for Defence Minister A.K. Antony's visit to Russia next week.
Mr. Antony is arriving in Moscow on October 13 on a three-day visit to co-chair the Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov.Price revision talks on the Gorshkov modernisation are “in the final leg,” Anatoly Isaikin, Director-General of the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, told the Interfax-AVN newswire on Wednesday.
“We have made very good progress and have all chances to conclude talks with a mutually acceptable result in the very near future.”Under a 2004 package deal worth $1.5 billion, Russia was to upgrade the Gorshkov — rechristened INS Vikramaditya — for $750 million.
The other half of the price was earmarked for the manufacture of 16 MiG-29K fighter aircraft for use on the aircraft carrier.
The deal, however, was drawn up on the basis of what Indian officials admitted was a mere “visual examination” of the vessel, and a physical verification of the ship last year revealed the need for massive additional work and pushed back the delivery date to 2012, fours years behind the original schedule.
Russia said it would take an extra $1.2 billion to complete the refit, whereas the Indian side estimated the revised cost of the Gorshkov package at $2.2 billion.
Even as the sides wrangled over a new price, the Sevmash shipyard continued the refit and took the vessel out of the dry dock in August after completing 50 per cent of the work.
Sevmash head Nikolai Kalistratov said on Tuesday that the shipyard had stepped up work after India made a $102 million advance payment recently, in addition to the $500 million paid earlier.
Mr. Kalistratov said the number of workers on INS Vikramaditya had been increased to 2,500, and by the end of the week, they would have lifted aboard all the 1,800 pieces of equipment that were to be installed on the aircraft carrier.
The Russian government earlier this week allocated four billion roubles ($135 million) to Sevmash to help the shipyard cope with its workload.