A couple of crucial meetings that were to serve as preparatory blocks for next month’s summit meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been postponed, said official sources.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has put off his interactions scheduled for Wednesday, with no firm dates available, and a crucial meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), which was to be held on Thursday, has been deferred.
The IRIGC-MTC meeting, the only Indian Ministerial-level format of this kind with another country, has been deferred due to the inability of the Russian Co-Chair of the Commission and Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to travel to India as scheduled. It has been conveyed by the Russian side that Mr. Serdyukov was required to stay in Russia for his urgent participation in a programme that involved Mr. Putin, said the sources here.
“The IRIGC-MTC meeting will now be held on October 10, which is an annual meeting at the level of Defence Ministers of the two countries,” said a statement.
At the meeting, India is expected to raise the issue of delay in delivery of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The delivery schedule of the 45,000-tonne warship has been delayed further after some trials couldn’t be completed in time before the sea freezes and open sea trials become impossible.
The Gorshkov issue will take the media spotlight, and there are a number of issues on the table, such as finalisation of the contract for 40 Sukhoi MKI fighters, purchase of more medium lift helicopters, and review of the progress made in two futuristic projects — the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Military Transport Aircraft (MTA).
Unlike the Europeans, who are still hoping for a review of the lucrative multi-billion fighter contract which has gone to the French, the Russians have overcome their disappointment, and official sources believe they have been adequately compensated with the additional Sukhoi orders, plus their selection for the FGFA and MTA.
The once partially gutted aircraft carrier Gorshkov, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, was scheduled for commissioning into the Indian Navy by December 4. Sources said with the weather beginning to deteriorate around the north Russian shipyard, where the ship is undergoing trials, it would be delivered only in October next year, although the hoisting of the Indian flag will take place as scheduled on December 4.
The Russian aircraft carrier was given free of cost in 2004, but the price of its refurbishment that was agreed upon at that time was renegotiated, and later put at $2.3 billion.
Problems in the supply of spares for the Russian equipment in Indian inventory and their maintenance are also likely to figure during the meeting, the sources said, although they maintained that with the setting up of warehouses and some initiatives, the problem isn’t as severe as it was, till six-seven years ago.